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Let There Be Light

Modern cars are showcases of technology. Here we look at some of these cutting-edge developments shaping headlight technology and lighting in our cars.



In the 1980s, headlights began to evolve beyond their simple bulb, glass lens and concave mirror construction. The optics to distribute the light in the desired pattern were integrated in different way and headlight technology suddenly began to move forward at a rapid pace.



Headlight casings moved on from glass to plastic, new light sources came into being, and terms like Xenon and HID came into the public domain. But what do they all mean? How are these lights better and how do they work? Here’s a quick and simple look at some modern lighting systems.



XENON, HID & PROJECTOR LAMPS



High Intensity Discharge also known as HIDs or Xenons have caught up massively in the new millennia with many car manufactures equipping even their mid-range models with HID lighting. Compared to halogen or normal headlights, there is no filament at all; instead, a high-intensity electric arc produces the light. The high intensity comes from metallic salts vapourised within the arc chamber which can produce more light for a given level of power consumption. The term ‘Xenons’ is used interchangeably with HIDs, due to the fact that the lamps actually contain the noble gas Xenon to help them light up instantly. The distinctive blue light of HID lamps makes them easy to identify. Skoda Auto pioneered the introduction of HID lamps in the legendary Octavia when cars even in segments above offered conventional lighting. Projector lamps are small, sealed units that look like mini torch heads placed inside the headlamp enclosure. These compact units contain all the light-making hardware and comprise a light source at one end and a lens with a very high curvature at the other. A shade or mask located between the lamp and the lens also allows the beam to be altered, so you can get both dip and full lights from the same unit. It is important to remember that projectors are a type of lamp, and can be paired with a HID light source. Skoda Auto set the trend to offer projector lens headlamps in the Indian market.



ADAPTIVE HEADLIGHTS



The technology, bases on the dynamic headlamps control system, revolves around sensors which measure speed, steering angle and yaw rate. This, in turn, controls the motors controlling the main lights to ensure that the road ahead is always adequately lit irrespective of change in direction. So when you take a sharp turn, the headlights turn to light up what would otherwise have been a dark road. Some systems can even dip the headlight when they ‘sense’ the headlights of another oncoming car. The advanced second-generation AFS II adaptive Frontlight System on the new Skoda Superb even adapts further to dynamic and static loading and also to change in weather conditions such as rain.



Additionally, Corner Function is incorporated in the front fog lamps, which switches on the right or left fog light separately – depending on the steering angle or by switching on the turn signal lights for the relevant side. It prevents blind spots created by dark areas around corners by lighting the space the car is about to turn into.



LED SYSTEMS



These differ from normal headlights because they don’t have a filament. They are illuminated solely by the movement of electrons in a semiconductor and this simplicity allows LEDs to produce a very strong beam of light from a relatively small area. And because they can be configured any way you want them to be, they allow design to push the envelope of headlight design. Up until recently. LEDs were too expensive to use for most lighting applications because they are built around advanced semiconductor material. The price of semiconductor device has plummeted over the past decade, however, making LEDs a more cost-effective lighting option for a wide range of situations. While they may be more expensive than incandescent lights up front, their lower cost in the long run can make them a better buy. This is the future. True to its tradition of always pioneering cutting edge technology across its range, Skoda Auto already offers LED lighting across the high performance RS model line. 



Source: Autocar July 20111

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