by Adrian-Liviu Dorofte

Mercedes-Benz builds leadership in LED lighting systems: Progress through better light

In 2010, the Mercedes-Benz CLS was the world's first production car to feature the dynamic full LED headlights which offer all the functions of conventional xenon adaptive lighting systems. The new S-Class is the first production car ever to be completely dispensed with conventional bulbs by using only energy efficient LEDs. The next step will be taken next year when Mercedes-Benz is celebrating the premiere of the Active Multi Beam LED.

Active Multi Beam LED extends the control of the vehicle headlights to a new dimension given the situation. To date, some functions, such as curve light or the glare-free high beam, were mechanically controlled. Now the engineers at Mercedes-Benz have opened up new degrees of freedom in light distribution through the selective control of many individual LEDs. Each individual LED can be switched on individually and thus illuminate precisely targeted areas. The different lighting functions are controlled independently. An adaptation of the driving light on the current traffic situation is thus more accurately represented. The headlight can adjust the light image extremely quickly and quietly - and for the left and right headlights individually. The controller derives the ideal light image 100 times per second and the system receives information from the camera.

"The CLS, which we have offered to our customers since 2010, is equipped with the first LED headlights, which have all the adaptive features found on the Intelligent Light System," says Prof. Dr. Thomas Weber, the Daimler Board of Management Member responsible for Group Research and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars Research and Development. "The Active Multi Beam LED headlights can now respond even faster and individually to changing traffic situations. There are also advanced, immediately tangible features such as predictive curve detection in the active cornering light mode. Mercedes-Benz will continuously expand its pioneering role in the lighting industry."

LED (light emitting diodes) are characterized today as the state of the art in vehicle lighting technology. Three advantages are decisive:

- LED head light has the colour of daylight the next. This means that LED light is in the normal human perception patterns. Studies show that artificial light exerts the eye less if closer in colour to daylight. With a colour temperature of 5,500 Kelvin, LED light is closer to daylight (6,500 K) than xenon light (4,200 K).

- LEDs are much more energy efficient than conventional bulbs and consume according about 75 percent less power according to studies. At higher light output, compared to conventional lighting systems, for example, the energy-saving LED beam needs only 34 watts, making it much more efficient than halogen light (110 to 120 watts) and xenon light (80 to 84 watts, information per vehicle). Up to 0.05 liters of fuel per 100 kilometers, or 2.1 grams of CO2 per kilometer can be saved compared to a vehicle fitted with halogen low beam.

- LEDs last much longer than conventional bulbs. The average life of an LED is around 10,000 hours, around five times higher than that of a xenon lamp.

CLS in 2010: breakthrough in LED technology

The breakthrough in LED technology came in 2010. With the CLS, Mercedes-Benz was the first automotive manufacturer to present the dynamic full LED headlights on a production model, a system offering all the features of xenon adaptive lighting systems. The five lighting functions of the Intelligent Light System - country mode, motorway mode, enhanced fog lights, active curve lighting and cornering lights - are designed specifically for typical driving and weather conditions. The light specialists from Mercedes-Benz have for the first time combined LED technology with the innovative Adaptive Highbeam Assistant, which led to a completely new level of safety at night. Full LED headlights are now an optional equipment for the new E-Class 2013 as well.

New E-Class: LED low beam standard

Since spring 2013, the new E-Class sets new standards when it comes to lights: LED technology as standard in both the passing beam and the driving lights. The highly efficient low beam headlight sums a power consumption of only 34 watts. Upon request, full-LED headlights are offered for the first time in this class.

New S-Class: The end of the conventional light

With the new S-Class, the next step is. Mercedes-Benz is expanding its pioneering role in the lighting industry continues: The new S-Class is the first time exclusively equipped with LED headlights and has no conventional bulbs more: Nearly 500 LEDs perform there the lighting of road, vehicle, interior and trunk. In the headlights carry powerful new single-chip LED and a newly developed projection module is mirrored and reflected back into the deflected light rays significantly to the efficiency increase.

New functions: more comfort, more safety, more consideration

Upon request, new features expand the capabilities of the LED headlamps of the new S-Class.

For the first time, the Adaptive Highbeam Assist Plus in the S-Class offers permanent driving in high beam mode with oncoming road users' recognition and light cone hiding technology. The camera-based system detects oncoming traffic or traffic ahead and fits, when high beam is on, the light distribution according to the traffic situation. The driver can leave the high beam switched on permanently and use its entire reach range without harassing or even endangering other road users therewith. Manual activation and deactivation is eliminated, so the total traveling time in high beam mode is markedly increased.

The Adaptive Highbeam Assist Plus uses the new stereo camera, which is also used by other assistance systems. Thanks to an image recognition algorithm, it recognizes an oncoming or preceding vehicle and thus drives a mechanism in the headlamp module. This displays the range in cone-beam LED headlights, which contains the other vehicles so that their drivers are not dazzled. There are road users that can be situated outside the active mechanism of the LED high-beam range, for example when cornering with a number of relevant vehicles. Then, the system uses the known function of the low beam headlight range control.

Possible self fades through the increased use of the high beam and highly reflective signs on the roadside are detected and avoided by selective dimming of the headlights.

Consideration: tail lights with automatically controlled intensity

In the new S-Class and E-Class, consideration towards road traffic partners is not only visible through the auto-hide of the high beam. As another world premiere, Mercedes-Benz has implemented the so-called multi-level functionality in the rear lights of the S-Class. Brake lights and turn signals are operated (day / night) with varying intensity depending on driving conditions and the brightness of the environment.

For example, at night, should the Mercedes driver press on the brake pedal at a red light, the brake light brightness is automatically adjusted downward, so that the driver behind is not dazzled. A wider light distribution ensures the light is not too dark and, of course, all statutory requirements are met.

Innovative: Milestones in lighting technology from Mercedes-Benz

As the oldest and most popular automotive brand in the world, Mercedes-Benz has always stood for innovation, which is based on customer value. Many innovations come from experimental cars such as the ESF 2009 research vehicle and make their way into the volume series innovation carriers such as the CL and S-Class. Here is a brief chronology of the most important milestones in Mercedes-Benz light technology for the last 20 years:

1991: Premiere of xenon headlamps with gas-discharge lamps in the Mercedes-Benz F 100 research vehicle

1995: Xenon headlights with dynamic range control in E-Class

1999: Premiere of the bi-xenon technology in the CL-Class

2003: World premiere of the active cornering light in the E-Class

2004: World premiere of bi-xenon headlamps with active light function and cornering light function in the CLS-Class

2005: Premiere of the Active Night View Assist in the S-Class

2006: World premiere of the Intelligent Light System in the E-Class

2009: World premiere of the Intelligent Light System with Adaptive Highbeam Assist in the E-Class

2009: Premiere of the Active Night View Assist Plus in the S-Class and E-Class

2010: World premiere of the LED High Performance headlamps with all lighting functions and the LED Intelligent Light System in the CLS-Class

2010: New Xenon bulb with 20 percent higher color temperature, which is even closer to the normal day light, in the S-Class and E-Class

2011: Start of production for the spotlight function (world premiere)

2013: New E-Class comes standard with energy-efficient LED low beam (34 watt / vehicle)

2013: New S-Class comes standard as the first car fitted with exclusively LED headlights. New lighting functions (optional): Adaptive Highbeam Assist PLUS, Night View Assist Plus. Dashboard lighting based on LED technology. Multi-level functionality for the rear lights.

2014: World premiere of the Active Multi Beam LED

Credits: Daimler AG

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