Since the invention of automobiles, rear lamps suffered from poor visibility in bad weather or due to lamp soiling. With the advent of advanced sensor systems and powerful microcontrollers, it is possible to adjust the light output of signalling applications to the visibility conditions. Latest LED technology allows to control the light output of signal lamps between almost zero cd and several hundred cd. Schefenacker has developed a system to improve the visibility of signal lamps by adaptation of the lighting levels to the environmental conditions. A detector system, consisting of a Lidar sensor and a combined brightness/dirt sensor detects the environmental conditions. A microcontroller transfers these data into necessary brightness levels for the intelligent rear lamp. The intensity of the signalling function is adapted accordingly, to guarantee a consistent perception even under bad weather conditions. This will affect positively the road safety, especially under strongly varying brightness conditions and in foggy weather. The system offers also the opportunity to get an automatically working fog lamp. Finally, the legal situation is highlighted. Since the implementation requires continuously varying intensity levels, the respective ECE regulations have to be adopted. Extensive work has been done since the first ideas for an adaptive tail lamp, and it is expected that the regulations will be adapted soon.
Since two decades, LEDs are used as light sources in the automobile industry. However, up to now, their usage was restricted to low lumen applications like dashboard lighting and exterior signal lighting. With the advent of very high brightness LEDs, now the time is ready to tackle also the most demanding application, the front forward lighting. Schefenacker actively works on the realisation of an LED headlamp. From this research work, several optical concepts for the realization of LED front forward lighting and their impact on the light source and on the lighting performance are presented. The advantages and challenges coming with the realisation of an LED headlamp are discussed. An outlook on future developments of LED forward lighting is given, e.g. possibilities with AFS or car to car communication. A short discussion of the legal situation with LED headlamps is added, including an outlook of the expected dates for legalization.