6 mins

Automotive lighting, a new era of “enlightenment”

Automotive lighting, a new era of “enlightenment”
#smartlighting #automotivesafety #stylingdesign #LEDtechnology

Automotive lights today do much more than simply light up the road. When an oncoming vehicle is detected, they can adjust the beam, optimize visibility or just set the right mood for a ride. Smart lighting technology has revolutionized vehicle illumination, providing enhanced safety features such as automatic high beams.

The evolution of automotive lighting

From oil to LED: a technological and aesthetic revolution

“A slow revolution of innovation.” This is how Kamislav Fadel, Vice-President of Engineering & Innovation at Lighting Business Group, describes the history of automotive lighting. From its beginning, lighting has served to ensure traffic safety for all road users. Early drivers relied on oil lamps or acetylene lamps to make their vehicles visible at night rather than for illumination. The lighting revolution took a significant step in 1962 with the introduction of incandescent bulbs with inert gas. The real turning point came in the 1990s with the arrival of xenon and LED lighting systems which offered three times the lighting power and much longer lifespans.


Today, lighting functions are more and more software driven, with some manufacturers offering light functionalities even on demand. Also, new highly technological skills are involved, such as digital electronic validation.


“At this time another crucial innovation revolution was under way, giving cars style,” emphasizes Kamislav Fadel. “Car manufacturers and suppliers, including OPmobility, learned to develop more aesthetic products while ensuring safety and performance.” With the advent of digitized headlights and rearlights, light has evolved into a medium of external communication and interaction, personalizing the design and offering new styling and customization options.

Lighting display for various car functions
Lighting display for various car functions
Lighting display for various car functions

Reinventing automotive lighting: identity and innovation

LED, OLED and intelligent lighting: the new standard for automakers

Once a mere functional necessity, automotive lights are now undergoing a transformative shift. In today’s automotive industry, where every brand seeks to affirm its unique identity in a fiercely competitive market, lighting design serves as a powerful means of differentiation. From iconic LED signatures to dynamic light animations, worldwide premium automotive brands use lighting technology to create instantly recognizable visual identities on the road.


LED technology, once considered a luxury feature, is becoming more and more standard across the automotive spectrum, offering superior energy efficiency, durability, and design flexibility. Beyond LEDs, emerging technologies such as OLEDs (Organic Light-Emitting Diodes) promise even greater versatility.


Today, lighting functions are increasingly software-controlled, with some manufacturers even offering lighting functionalities on demand. Light is becoming smart and can even be used via projections or displays to communicate to other cars or road users. This also requires new, high-tech skills, such as digital electronic validation.

Projection systems allow a unique design and communication with the driver’s immediate surroundings.

Challenges facing the european automotive industry


Spotlight on challenges


“In Europe, the automotive industry faces a complex regulatory landscape, with over 130 regulations, approximately one-third of which pertain to lighting aspects, including both the light sources utilized and the equipment of vehicles,” explains Kamislav Fadel. What’s more, the transition to LED technologies, coupled with the integration of various software functionalities, introduces heightened complexity, and requires an expanded supplier network. “Each lighting system now encompasses between 240 to 400 parts, with electronics accounting for up to 60% of the projector’s costs. Additionally, thermal considerations must be factored in, further contributing to the overall complexity and cost of lighting systems. Lighting projectors have a significantly shorter lifespan compared to other vehicle components, leading to intricate turnover planning, with a new project initiated every three years.”

Automotive lighting in the age of autonomous vehicles

Innovations and awards for intelligent, immersive mobility

The convergence of lighting technology with the rise of autonomous vehicles promises even more profound transformation. In this vision of tomorrow’s mobility, automotive lights will serve as integral components of vehicle communication and interaction. Dynamic light projections onto the road surface can convey messages to pedestrians and cyclists, signaling the vehicle’s intent to yield or proceed, thereby fostering trust in shared urban spaces. Inside the vehicle, ambient lighting can adapt to passengers’ preferences, creating personalized, immersive environments tailored to specific moods and activities. “Emotion is becoming one of our priorities,” underlines Fadel. “Changing the brightness of the space, the colors or the patterns of the dashboard or the interior to match the mood chosen by the drivers… Through lighting, we are aiming to create a wow effect that really transforms the car.”


An example of this lighting innovation in action at OPmobility is the dynamic interior dashboard projection system. This module is composed of several microlens arrays integrating different patterns. RGB LEDs—which, combining just three colors, can create the entire color spectrum—generate a light beam, which the microlenses project onto the dashboard. Featured in the interior of the new MINI Cooper Electric, this dynamic projection system was celebrated with an Innovation Award at CES 2024 in Vegas. This marks the second consecutive year of international recognition of the innovative progress driving OPmobility’s contributions to the transition to a personalized, more autonomous, and safer mobility.

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