Hella Goes Global with Next-Gen Headlight
Hella has developed a new headlight system that it says can be easily adapted for different applications to meet varying regulations around the world.
The design will allow carmakers to use a single system in place of as many as a dozen variants of headlights that a global car currently may need to be sold from region to region, according to the supplier. This promises to speed development times and reduce manufacturing complexities.
The new SSL 100 (solid-state lighting) LED module will debut in an unnamed premium vehicle this year. Series production of the headlamp will start this summer at Hella’s plant in Irapuato, Mexico, and at the end of the year in Jiaxing, China.
Why it Matters
Global headlight standards are a mess, including significant differences between what’s allowed in the U.S. and Europe.
Adaptive headlights, which continually operate in high-beam mode but selectively block out individual LEDs as needed to prevent blinding oncoming traffic, are commonplace in Europe. The technology currently is prohibited in the U.S.—although NHTSA is reviewing the applicable FMVSS 108 standard.
Conversely, Hella notes, the U.S. allows low-beam lights to illuminate two lanes of traffic. Europe doesn’t.
Carmakers also have to design separate headlights for vehicles sold in right- and left-hand-drive markets.
Hella describes the SSL global headlight as a micro-LED system with a 100-pixel array. By comparison, most current LEDs are 84-pixel systems.
Hella’s new SSL 100 global headlight can be adapted to meet varying regulations in multiple markets.The micro LED array is 30% smaller than conventional units. (Image: Hella)
The new design is smaller, with about one-third fewer parts and a corresponding weight reduction and is more efficient and highly flexible, explains Ricardo Camacho, Hella’s director of program management for headlights. He attributes the improvements to a combination of advances in software, optics and LED technology.
Digital control can activate each pixel individually and coordinate beam distribution in conjunction with regional regulations. For example, the same headlight can be tuned to optimize illumination—and minimize glare—for either right- or left-hand-drive roundabouts.
"We have a technical basis for implementing all lighting functions by using software and flexibly adapting them to regional requirements. This also includes additional functions such as glare-free high beam or projected orientation lines on the road," adds Michael Kleinkes, who heads Hella’s lighting technology development efforts.
In addition to meeting global regulations, SSL 100 can enable a host of customer-specific features.
This includes automatic on-off, adaptive high beams and the ability to create customized patterns (possibly even animations) when a vehicle is started and turned off.
Camacho says there also are several potential safety benefits. One example: selectively turning off individual LEDs during winter driving to reduce sun glare off snow at the side of the road, which otherwise could blind the driver.
Next-generation systems also could be integrated with vehicle-to-everything technologies to alert drivers and/or pedestrians about upcoming traffic and potential hazards. This includes construction zones and approaching emergency vehicles.
“There’s a lot of interest in the industry,” Camacho says. “Companies are looking at how to use the technology to create new applications and greater personalization. It can provide multiple benefits to customers.”
Hella plans to adapt the digital control technology across its entire range of LED headlights, from 100-pixel units to high-resolution systems.
The company also is developing a next-generation architecture with a 30,000-pixel array to launch in 2022. SSL 100 is said to be a bridge to that technology, which will provide higher resolution and have even more functionality.