At the moment, laser lighting seems to be the new fad. Both BMW and Audi have sold cars with laser headlights in Europe. The laser headlight technology, in a nutshell, is comprised of a laser that fires into a filament, which in turn creates ultra bright light, brighter than any LED headlight. However, Mercedes-Benz feels that laser headlights are, to quote the ’90s, so yesterday. So the folks in Stuttgart are developing a new style of lighting, called “Digital Light”.
While the details of the new “Digital Light” tech are still minimal, as Mercedes-Benz is still in the process of development, it is a fascinating sounding technology. Essentially, the Digital headlights use more than one million “micromirrors” per headlight with four light points each. Each light point is comprised of 1024 individual actuatable LED chips, giving the car a total of 8192 LED lights.
The idea behind this isn’t necessarily the brightness or the distance of the light, but the ability to shine light exactly where it’s needed and not where it isn’t. With that many individual lights, the Digital Lights can create illumination in exact places and even exact shapes. “We are not only striving for beam records, rather we want to achieve optimum vision and maximum brightness without glare,”said Gunter Fischer, Head of Exterior Body Development and Vehicle Operating Systems for Mercedes. “Functions for supporting the driver and staging communication with other road users significantly optimise safety when driving at night.”
In fact, Mercedes is capable of creating specific images on the road ahead with the lights. So if there’s roadwork ahead, the lights will shine a roadwork sign ahead on the road, as well as surrounding illumination, to alert the driver. If a pedestrian is crossing the street and the systems on board recognize it, the lights will display zebra lines across the street to warn the driver.
According to Fischer, Mercedes is looking at this tech rather than lasers because of its capabilities, rather than brightness. ”The decisive factor is not the technology in the headlight but the digital intelligence behind it,”.
It’s a very interesting lighting innovation and, based on the Germans’ penchant for copy-catting other German brands, we can see both BMW and Audi looking into something similar.