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New Report Highlights LEDs in Automobiles

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Anne L. Fischer

The market for LEDs in the automotive sector has skyrocketed in recent years. According to “Opportunities & Challenges for Photonics in the Automotive,” a report from Yole Développement of Lyon, France, the use of photonics for these applications will usher in a new era in design, fuel efficiency and safety.

The report offers an overview of photonic applications in automobile lighting, displays, communications and sensors. Its market analyses include an estimate that the sales of photonics in the auto industry will grow to more than $13 billion in 2009 from $4 billion in 2003 — the most recent figure available. The forecast is broken down to reflect applications such as adaptive front lighting systems, optical communications, flat panel displays, internal and external lighting, high-intensity discharge systems, head-up displays and optical sensors.

High-intensity discharge, or xenon, lighting has been available for more than 12 years, yet halogen lights are installed in approximately 90 percent of new cars today. By 2007, however, high-brightness LEDs are expected to gain some ground, reaching $90 million in worldwide sales by 2009 (versus $5 billion for high-intensity illumination).

The report describes the advantages of high-intensity discharge lamps, including high lumens per watt and per weight, a superior color-rendering index and an established fixture design. The advantages of white LEDs in forward lighting include a long lifetime and flexibility in design. Challenges to adoption include the reliability of current forward lighting technologies and European legislation that prohibits the use of high-brightness LEDs as front lighting before 2007 or 2008.

Adaptive front lighting

Adaptive front lighting is an application with two designs. One type employs an extra front light that is set at an angle of approximately 35° outside the vehicle and that is activated during low-speed turns in response to input from the indicator and steering. Another type is controlled electronically, with motors that swivel the lights in response to steering input. The report touches on the incorporation of micromirror technology into adaptive lighting applications. Design challenges are identified, including implementation of a cooling strategy and a way to stabilize the micromirrors against vibration. It is estimated that the market for adaptive lighting should reach $700 million by 2009.

The paper offers insight into variations in the use of LEDs by country. For example, their adoption in rear lighting is higher in countries where the LEDs are manufactured, such as Germany. A trend in rear lighting is intelligent rear lights, which are compared to adaptive front lighting in the way that taillights and brake lights can vary in intensity to compensate for weather, traffic or dirt on the lens. New functions for rear lighting include a blinking stoplight, a camera to guide the driver when backing up, and various color turn signals for different countries.

The report draws information from manufacturers and other sources, including Hella KGaA Hueck & Co., Robert Bosch GmbH, Denso Corp. and DaimlerChrysler AG. It is available from Yole Développement for h2450, or about $3150.

Photonics Spectra
Jun 2005
CommunicationsConsumerDisplaysFeatureslightingphotonic applicationsSensors & DetectorsLEDs

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