Automobile lighting: in the face of things to come

November 21, 2011 // By Juliana Baron
Going from lanterns to light diodes – this, in a nutshell, describes the course of development in automotive lighting over the last 100 years. What originally served only functional purposes has long since evolved into a matter of design: every single vehicle can be given an individual appearance, thanks to its characteristic lighting. In this light, LED compact light diodes open up a world of new possibilities for designing.

In the early days of the automobile, the aesthetics of illumination still played a subordinate role. The car's image was dominated by lanterns that were positioned on the outside of the vehicle, and this remained unchanged until they were replaced by gas lamps (carbide lamps). As early as 1925, during the era of light bulbs, Osram made a significant contribution to automotive lighting: Bilux double-filament lamps, which were the first lamps to use only one lighting source for both dimmed light and head beams, thus improving lighting conditions. Since the 1970s, halogen car lamps have become established as the standard, and to this very day they are built into approximately 90 percent of all vehicles. However, with this source of lighting being used, it is very difficult to realise a unique design.

Headlamps with glow-discharge lamps – so-called Xenon lamps – entered the market in the 1990s. The colour temperature is similar to that of daylight. This is what makes the Xenon light appear whiter and thus enables better sight, especially in bad weather. What is more, the „high-tech“ look of the lights adds to the design of the vehicle. Therefore, Xenon lights are offered as optional original equipment in more and more cars, contributing significantly to their look.

LED: characteristic at first sight

Nevertheless, three little letters will change the future face of automobiles: LED. They combine the practical aspects of the car's design with aesthetic factors in all respects. The compact light diodes, which originally merely served as substitutes for the very small light bulbs in vehicle cockpits, are presently conquering the entire spectrum of automotive lighting. Their greatest benefit: they require only little space and can be arranged in virtually any imaginable way. Hence, not only can they be used as singular, point-shaped light sources, but also as solid lighting strips or illuminating surfaces. They combine a variety of different functions, such as dimmed lights and indicators,

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