Automotive lighting: rethinking lighting technology!

HELLA is taking automotive lighting to a new level with new, digital technologies. It's all about light, safety, comfort, design and driver assistance systems!

HELLA continues to expand its lighting expertise under the FORVIA umbrella. In addition to classic automotive lighting such as front and rear headlamps, body and interior lighting, and alongside LED/laser and matrix lighting, the focus is on the development of completely new, integrated technologies. It is a focus on high-resolution, software-controlled lighting systems and also novel safety and comfort features, embedded as modules in the appropriate vehicle architecture. This means that completely new applications can be realised – lighting technology rethought, reloaded!

Digital Light SSL/HD systems are setting standards in automotive lighting

HELLA has already set new standards in automotive lighting with the introduction of the Digital Light SSL/HD systems. A matrix LED light with 30,000 pixels was used for the very first time. In addition to its dynamic headlamp function, the system generates light markings. For example, the additional and optical lane departure warning system provides support for the driver when lanes are narrow during overtaking manoeuvres. It can also project cycling zones onto the road. HELLA was able to further develop assistance functions such as the adaptive, glare-free high beam with SSL/HD. Comfort functions like the visual coming and leaving home feature and individual visual/communicative elements can also be incorporated.

E-cars: more scope for vehicle lighting and design

Battery electric cars do not need a radiator, the "good old" radiator grille, which has been a central design and easily recognisable element of many vehicles, is no longer a necessity. This opens up new possibilities for vehicle manufacturers to conceptualise and create the car front and the lighting system in a completely individual design language. Cars thus get a new, radiant face. But it is not only the product designers who benefit; completely new technical possibilities also open up, especially when it comes to system integration and sensor technology. "Design is also what you don't see", said car designer Walter de Silva in the Süddeutsche Zeitung (German newspaper) in 2010.

So-called front phygital shields are used as a differentiating design element in e-cars and they also play a central role when it comes to automated driving.

Front phygital shields: physics meets digitalisation

In order to be part of this, HELLA is running with the so-called front phygital shields (FPS). The word "phygital" combines "physics" and "digitalisation". The modules covering a large surface and illuminated in many colours not only replace the radiator grille at the front of the vehicle, but they also serve as a striking design element for electric vehicles. Physics comes into play when it is a question of processes for driving dynamics and of sensor technology, while digitalisation stands for data networking and intelligent software. Both aspects are prerequisites for autonomous driving. The front phygital shields therefore not only have a design function, but they rather serve as a platform for the integration of numerous, high-performance assistance systems. So, for example, radar sensors and entire assemblies can be hidden behind customisable high-tech trims. More and more sensors are being used to bring about level 3, 4 or even 5 of autonomous driving. That explains why the degree of freedom for system integration is so versatile. Sensor technology (including heating) is also optimally protected against environmental influences when placed behind the illuminated front modules from HELLA. The FPSs, some of which consist of eight different layers of foil and plastic, are made out of sustainable and recyclable materials. They are partly "self-healing", i.e. they forgive slight mechanical impacts, for example those caused by stone chips.

Front phygital shields connect automotive lighting with sensors

Now we see automotive lighting coming into play again. The front phygital shields, so to say, integrate two of HELLA's core competencies, lighting systems and sensor technology. Thus, front phygital shields make up part of the most technologically sophisticated technologies. But this is their real highlight: they enable countless variants and levels of integration to be created. That means that a wide range of lighting functions can be integrated depending on the customer's requirements. These include the main and signal light functions, but also individual, optical design elements implemented with the help of LEDs. HELLA has already produced more than 140 different design models as part of customer projects, working with all kinds of colour variations and also with illuminated and non-illuminated variants.
And into the bargain, the front phygital shields ensure the implementation of automated driving functions. One example is the automatic distance control, known as adaptive cruise control (ACC). Here the FPSs act as a radar-transparent cover for the radar sensors to protect them from the weather and from dirt. At the same time, the integrated heating function turns the sensors into a weather-independent technology capable of location awareness. The end result is an intelligent overall system coming from a single source, which is indeed something to be proud of!