The US DOT’s 50 year old regulation of headlights is getting in the way of innovation. That’s what BMWNA told us recently when asked why we won’t have laser lighting as an option on the new G02 7 series when it launches this October 24th. However there is a plan that BMW and other automakers are hoping will produce favorable results.
Why not simply push for new rules governing automotive headlights in the US? That literally would require an act of congress and we all know how long that might take. So BMW is taking a different tack of asking the DOT for a rules re-interpretation with the expectation that it would allow for more modern lighting. This approach would allow for technologies such as laser lighting and variable LED lighting (recently previewed on the new Mercedes E Class) that is safer, more energy efficient as well as brighter.
Laser lighting is an important development for a number of reasons. In the laser headlight, the beams of light are bundled together to attain a luminous intensity that is ten times greater than conventional light sources such as halogen, xenon or LED. BMW Laserlight has a visual range of up to 600 meters, twice that of a headlight with conventional light technology.
BMW Laserlight surpasses energy efficiency compared with already highly effective LED light technology by a further 30 percent, thereby providing considerably greater light intensity and a marked reduction in electricity consumption.
The laser diodes are ten times smaller than conventional light diodes, enabling the height of the reflector to be reduced from 9 cm to less than 3 cm. This, in turn, creates more space in the headlight and also reduces weight, thereby creating new design possibilities for the vehicle.
BMW Laserlight takes the coherent and monochromatic blue laser beams and transforms them into harmless white light. This is done by using special lenses to direct the beams emitted by three high-performance laser diodes onto a fluorescent phosphorous substance inside the laser light source. This fluorescent substance converts the beams into a white light, still with a very high intensity, which to the human eye, appears similar to daylight. Following conversion of the laser beams, the harmless, dispersed light is projected forward by the headlight unit.
The laser headlight is also equipped with automatic headlight range control to keep the beam of light at a pre-set level, no matter whether the vehicle is driving uphill or downhill, whether it is fully laden or whether the driver is the sole occupant.
The equipment includes LED lowbeam headlights and LED highbeams with a laser module. The option is currently available (outside the US) on both the BMW i8 and G01 and G02 7 Series. However we fully expect the next generation 5 series and 3 series to eventually get the technology in the coming years with MINI and front wheel drive BMWs getting the option around 2020. Whether we’ll see any of those cars with Laser lighting in the US remains to be seen.