by Adrian-Liviu Dorofte

Revolution in headlamp technology: DIGITAL LIGHT - Mercedes shines in HD quality

As a pioneer in lighting, Mercedes-Benz has distinguished itself through its capability to innovate and further evolve existing technologies. In 2010, with the advent of the C 218 generation of the CLS, the constructor premiered the world's first full LED headlights. In 2013, the new S-Class and the E-Class facelift series brought the Adaptive LED Intelligent Light System. Next year, during summer, the CLS facelift was premiering the MULTIBEAM LED system with 24 individually actuatable LEDs per lighting unit. The beginning of 2016 brought the new E-Class (W 213) into light, that became the first vehicle in its class to feature 4K resolution headlamps. This incredible level of quality is achieved thanks to MULTIBEAM LED system which now offers 84 individual lighting points for enhanced visibility and efficiency.

Nowadays, LED looks set to be a revolutionary solution which can be further developed for greater performance and increased safety, with full cost effectiveness in mind. Compared to laser lights, LED lighting technologies can be evolved following a vertical, step-by-step path at considerably lower costs and without diminishing their real, intricate performance. On the other hand, even though laser can illuminate over a longer distance which in some cases may extend up to 13000 meters and are a bit more accurate (by their capability of lighting exact spots), the development costs are far greater than in the case of LEDs and, what is more important, laser lights cannot be used at their full power and need to be limited at up to 600 meters (according to EU and US road regulations), which brings in additional costs.

In the future, Mercedes-Benz will entirely rely on LED technology for its new HD lighting system with dazzle-free main beam. The µAFS LED chips (with 4 lighting units per lamp and 1024 LED per each, equaling 8192 LED pixels for the two headlamps) will form the basis of the 3rd generation MULTIBEAM LED and will soon become reality in the forthcoming S-Class facelift model (BR222), which is to be revealed at the Geneva Motor Show 2017. From 2018, when the new Mercedes-Benz CLE (C 257), the CLS replacement model, will be officialy unveiled, the Stuttgart-based constructor will also premiere the very first DIGITAL LIGHT technology ever to be used in an automobile, which uses over 2 million OLED units (over 1 million per each headlamp) and state-of-art artificial intelligence to control the individual light points. The new system has the advantage of being more versatile, more precise (it can project light traces and traffic signs onto the road), more efficient and boasting a close-to-ideal light distribution range of up to 600 meters for the main beam, in safe, dazzle-free, no-glare conditions for the oncoming traffic drivers.

For more specific details on the new DIGITAL LIGHT, read the following press release. Enjoy!

Revolution in headlamp technology: Mercedes shines in HD quality: "DIGITAL LIGHT": dazzle-free continuous main beam in the Mercedes: precision with resolution of more than 2 million pixels


Stuttgart, Germany - For the Mercedes developers the future of car light lies in dazzle-free main beam in HD quality. The revolutionary headlamp technology shines with maximum performance and facilitates communication and pioneering driver assistance. The new HD headlamp generation from Mercedes-Benz features chips that work with over one million micromirrors, i.e. more than two million in total per vehicle. The intelligent control logic required for the dynamic light functions was developed by Mercedes-Benz itself. Algorithms receive detailed information about the surroundings from the vehicle sensors, and from it calculate in real time the brightness value for each one of over two million pixels. This dynamism and precision gives this intelligent system well-nigh countless possibilities to provide ideal, high-resolution light distribution which suits the surrounding conditions perfectly. "The decisive factor is not the technology in the headlamp but the digital intelligence behind it", stresses Gunter Fischer, Head of Exterior Body Development and Vehicle Operating Systems at Daimler AG. The innovation was developed by Mercedes-Benz in collaboration with two partner companies and it is a good example of the intern cooperation between the Daimler research and the passenger car development on the road to start of production.

Sensors, such as cameras or radar, detect other road users and powerful computers evaluate the data as well as digital cards in milliseconds and give the headlamps the commands for adapting the light distribution in all situations. These efforts yield optimum vision for the driver without dazzling other road users as well as innovative functions with added safety. "With our "DIGITAL LIGHT" strategy we are not only striving for beam records, rather we want to achieve optimum vision and maximum brightness without glare. Innovative functions for supporting the driver and staging communication with other road users significantly optimise safety when driving at night", emphasises Gunter Fischer.

Mercedes-Benz does not only want to achieve the ideal light distribution for every driving situation with "DIGITAL LIGHT", but guide and support the driver in a targeted manner in critical situations such as driving through narrow roadworks. Additionally it will be possible to project light traces onto the road to replace missing road markings. Moreover digital light systems can also beam messages like direction arrows or warnings onto the road. Via "DIGITAL LIGHT" the car will also communicate with other road users in future: for example, symbols or a zebra crossing for pedestrians can be projected. "DIGITAL LIGHT" thus delivers important contributions towards traffic safety and modules on the road to accident-free and autonomous driving – as an integral component of the overall INTELLIGENT DRIVE strategy. What was unveiled in 2015 in the research vehicle F015 as a vision has now been implemented in demo vehicles and will be on the road in the near future.

The headlamp becomes a projector The new headlamp in HD quality provides a chip working with over a million micro-mirrors. The light is split up into tiny pixels. The smaller these light pixels become the better the system can react to different situations, the more precisely objects and passers-by can be illuminated and simultaneously individual areas can be faded out or dimmed in a targeted manner. The requisite intelligent actuation logic was developed by Mercedes-Benz. This creates an optimum view for the driver, without dazzling other road users.

In the future Mercedes-Benz will use its newly developed HD software light distribution as part of "DIGITAL LIGHT" with two hardware headlamp systems:

- For maximum resolution and performance Mercedes-Benz is using more than a million light points per HD headlamp with a new type of projection technology. Animated by high-current light-emitting diodes, over two million micro-mirrors in total radiate onto the road surface – each mirror can be moved individually. Initial prototypes are already installed in demonstration vehicles and were presented to the general public in November 2016 as part of night-time journeys.

- Presented in October 2016, the new, highly efficient and very compact LED chip from the joint research project µAFS will be found in Mercedes-Benz vehicles in the foreseeable future. Four light points, each with 1024 individually actuatable LED chips, are installed per headlamp here. This adds up to 8192 individually actuatable light pixels per vehicle.

Credits: Daimler AG

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