Automotive Lighting: A Building Block of Autonomous Driving

By Tiera Oliver

Associate Editor

Embedded Computing Design

January 28, 2020


Automotive Lighting: A Building Block of Autonomous Driving

Exterior lighting is gaining significance because automated driving advancements have illustrated the importance of communication between all road users.

Yole Développement (Yole) announced a US$29 billion market in 2018. According to the market research and strategy consulting company, the automotive lighting sector should reach US$38.8 billion in 2024, at a 4.9% CAGR between 2018 and 2024.

“This growth is driven by natural LED cost erosion, coupled with standardization and optimization of LED modules, resulting in more vehicles equipped with this technology,” analyzes Martin Vallo, PhD. Technology & 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 innovation developed by SCALA via the partnership between Valeo and Ibeo, the Valeo SCALA Laser Scanner. This mechanical 3D scanner laser is able to identify objects and measure distances in any environment. This product is 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, performed an analysis of this solution and proposed a dedicated report. Based on a complete teardown analysis of the system, the study provides bill-of-material, manufacturing cost and more, pertaining to the LiDAR sensor. The report includes a physical analysis of the laser diode and the avalanche photodiode as well as a complete cost and selling price analysis. Technology and application evolution bring more complex systems, more components and subassemblies, while maintaining quality, agree Yole and System Plus Consulting partners.

Yole’s analysts propose a new technology and market report dedicated to the automotive lighting industry and innovations. The Advanced Front-Lighting Systems report is offering a comprehensive overview of the overall ecosystem, highlighting the latest technical innovations and the market evolution. In this report, Yole 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.

What is the status of automotive lighting industry? What are AFLS and the technologies behind? How will the automotive sector adopt innovations? What are the related roadmaps? Yole’s experts offer a snapshot of solid-state lighting innovations and their adoption.

The digitalization 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 building blocks. These include cameras and sensors enabling detection and identification of objects, ECUs for fast computing of information, and software for 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.

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 destabilize economies worldwide. OEMs and suppliers now must face industry disruption of a traditional model.

LEDs are gaining popularity as their cost decreases and efficiency, luminance, and package size improves. Full LED headlamps are now being commercialized 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 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.

Yole’s automotive lighting report presents all AFLS applications and their associated market revenue for the period between 2019 and 2024. It details the integration status of different lighting technologies and systems, recent trends, and market size by application.

CAGR : Compound Annual Growth Rate
LED: Lighting Emitting Diodes
LiDAR : Light Detection and Ranging
ADAS : Advanced Driver Assistance Systems
AFLS : Advanced Front-Lighting System
ADB : Adaptive-Driving Beam
AI : Artificial Intelligence
LCoS : Liquid Crystal-On- Silicon
SLM : Spatial Light Modulator
ECU : Electronic Control Unit
OEM : Original Equipment Manufacturer

For more information about this report as well as other solid-state lighting reports, please visit: 

Tiera Oliver, Associate Editor for Embedded Computing Design, is responsible for web content edits, product news, and constructing stories. She also assists with newsletter updates as well as contributing and editing content for ECD podcasts and the ECD YouTube channel. Before working at ECD, Tiera graduated from Northern Arizona University where she received her B.S. in journalism and political science and worked as a news reporter for the university’s student led newspaper, The Lumberjack.

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