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Automotive lighting: a building block of autonomous driving


Headlamp digitalisation is driving automotive lighting’s growth and technological evolution, says Yole

In a new report on Advanced Front-Lighting Systems, Yole Développement (Yole) forecasts that the automotive lighting market will grow from $29 billion in 2018 that to $38.8 billion in 2024, at a 4.9 percent CAGR.

“This growth is driven by natural LED cost erosion, coupled with standardisation and optimisation of LED modules, resulting in more vehicles equipped with this technology,” says Martin Vallo, technology and market analyst, Solid-State Lighting at Yole. “Today, automotive lighting is becoming one potential critical node for autonomous driving. Indeed lighting systems could represent a key location for integrating sensors such as local cameras, radar and LiDAR.”

One example is the latest innovation developed by SCALA via the partnership between Valeo and Ibeo: Valeo SCALA Laser Scanner. This mechanical 3D scanner laser is able to identify objects and measure distances in any environment. This innovative product is today designed for vehicles with ADAS and autonomous cars.

“Highly and fully automated driving is about to become reality in the very near future”, asserts Sylvain Hallereau, senior cost analyst, System Plus Consulting. “Driven by lower production costs and the emergence of new technologies, LiDAR is becoming a key component for automotive applications and we expect this market to explode…”

The reverse costing company, System Plus Consulting has performed a detailed analysis of this solution. Based on a complete teardown analysis of the system, the study provides bill-of-material, manufacturing cost and more… of this LiDAR sensor. The report includes a detailed physical analysis of the laser diode and the avalanche photodiode as well as a complete cost and selling price analysis. Without doubts, technology and application evolution brings today more complex systems, more components and subassemblies, while maintaining quality, agree both partners, Yole and System Plus Consulting. One upon a time Advanced Front-Lighting Systems (AFLS)/

Yole's report presents technology roadmaps for light sources (LEDs and lasers), and building blocks of AFLS architecture including lighting, sensing, computing, and software control. In addition, AFLS lighting technologies and penetration into different car segments are also detailed.

The digitalisation of cars is a megatrend in the automotive industry, moving towards electric and autonomous vehicles. The developments related to this trend facilitate new approaches in safety, comfort, and information services. Exterior lighting is gaining significance because automated driving advancements have illustrated the importance of communication between all road users. “Today, digital lighting is a key area of investigation for the automotive lighting supply chain, since it enables smarter lighting functionalities, safer ADB designs with cameras, and AI in the loop,” explains Martin Vallo from Yole.

Two approaches are being investigated for image generation: additive and subtractive. Images from DMD, LCDs, and LCoS are formed with illumining optics to ensure precise illumination of the corresponding SLM . The micro-structured adaptive front-lighting system (or μAFS) forms the light distribution by projecting the light-emitting surface of each LED pixel onto the road. Pixel LED itself is a novel technology, consisting of more than 1,000 pixel points per chip, with tiny pitch.

Additionally, AFLS architecture integrates other inevitable building blocks. These include cameras and sensors enabling detection and identification of objects, ECUs for fast computing of information, and software for effective image processing and automation of functions. Based on image processing functions and intelligent settings in the projection module, critical areas of oncoming traffic that might face glare are removed from the high-beam’s distribution, with the rest of the high-beam field remaining intact for the driver’s convenience. With these new digital headlight technologies, light distribution must be reinvented. High resolution, combined with flexible software and wide-ranging sensor integration, creates options that were once inconceivable.

“Despite the auto industry’s overall slowdown, the lighting market looks bright over the next decade,” comments Pierrick Boulay, technology and market analyst at Yole. The period following the 2008/2009 global economic crisis was the auto industry’s longest-ever growth phase. But after eight productive years, in 2018 we observed a modest decrease in vehicle sales. The drivers of this recent downturn are global trade uncertainty due to U.S. tariffs, and increasing trade restrictions that threaten to destabilise economies worldwide. OEMs and suppliers now must face industry disruption of a traditional model.

“New mobility and digital transformation are the key trends that will directly impact the automotive lighting industry”, adds Pierrick Boulay.

LEDs are rapidly gaining popularity as their cost decreases and efficiency, luminance, and package size improves. Full LED headlamps are now being commercialised in emerging markets, and nearly all car makers and Tier-1 parts suppliers have developed full LED-based headlamp systems. Such technology is a must-have in the C and also the D (large vehicle) automotive segments, with implementation continuing in the lower B (small car segment). For example the Renault Clio and Opel Corsa are equipped with full-LED lighting, either as standard on the base model, or as optional LED matrix headlights in the Corsa’s case.

Today’s moderate market growth is mostly related to the strategies of light source suppliers – “LEDification” – implementing lower-cost solutions for emerging markets and to the automotive market slowdown.

Advanced LED matrix headlights, with more than 50 LEDs per vehicle, have been implemented in premium car segments. These attractive headlamps provide different lighting scenarios and are frequently selected by new-car buyers. As a result, styling and technological advances have also contributed to the market’s growth.

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