Jan 15, 2021

2021 Supercharging LED innovation

Category: Automotive
These addressable micro-LEDs will be fed data from various sensors in the vehicle, and the resulting light patterns will communicate the embedded information visually to drivers or other road users.

These addressable micro-LEDs will be fed data from various sensors in the vehicle, and the resulting light patterns will communicate the embedded information visually to drivers or other road users.

The Consumer Electronics Show, a place of global pilgrimage for followers of high tech, moved online this year because of the pandemic. But that doesn’t mean the pace of innovation is slowing down. Far from it, especially in the automotive sector, where new ideas are reshaping the industry landscape like never before. One obvious case in point is Tesla, which last year managed to become the world’s most valuable automaker. Another inspirational example is NIO, a Chinese electric-car start-up founded as recently as 2014 and already placed third in the same ranking of car companies by value. While these new industry players are often some way off translating their sky-high market valuations into structural profits, investors are still ready to show faith and provide funds upfront. All for a slice of disruptive innovation fueled by transformational technology.

At Lumileds we push the boundaries of light, creating value through applications and customer experiences previously thought impossible. The LEDification of automotive lighting has come a long way since LEDs first appeared in the taillights of the 1992 Ford Thunderbird, or even since Audi’s first full-LED headlamp on the R8 sportscar in 2007. Both of these industry firsts featured Lumileds’ legacy red and white LED technology. Today, LED is the leading technology for all car-lighting functions. However, automotive LED lighting isn’t about to become a plain-vanilla commodity. More than ever, new dynamic signaling and adaptive LED-matrix headlighting systems are bringing enhanced safety to drivers and other road users. At the same time, carmakers benefit from the versatility and design freedom of LEDs to create unique, stylish lighting signatures along the entire exterior of the car body, offering the consumer greater scope for customized lighting.

As we speak, LED technology is reinventing itself with the emergence of micro-LEDs. Leveraging all its expertise in materials, processing, and packaging design built up over multiple decades, the LED industry has now come up with a disruptive new generation of highly miniaturized LED devices. Typical chip dimensions have been downscaled from millimeters to microns, making these micro-LEDs high-resolution, pixelated light sources. This will eventually lead to fully digital lighting applications for cars. These addressable micro-LEDs will be fed data from various sensors in the vehicle, and the resulting light patterns will communicate the embedded information visually to drivers or other road users. Numerous new applications are being explored: fully software-controlled high-definition headlighting beams, digital-signaling surround projection, information-display lighting, and more.

Lumileds is excited and working hard to accelerate this micro-LED technology for automotive. Fasten your seatbelt for an innovative 2021!