Trendsetter in Lighting Technology: Opel AFL+ and LED Matrix Light

100 years of electric headlamps

2013-10-31

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  • Safety for all: High-tech lighting system AFL+ in models from Insignia to Mokka
  • Illuminating: New LED light generation makes glare-free high beams the standard
  • Brightening: First electric car headlamps went into series production 100 years ago

Rüsselsheim. To see and be seen is absolutely vital – especially now, when daylight hours have become shorter and drivers spend more time on the road in the dark. Advanced lighting technology dramatically increases road traffic safety and Opel is a trendsetter in this area, with state-of-the-art headlamp systems such its highly praised AFL+ (Adaptive Forward Lighting). The Rüsselsheim automaker also makes these systems available in smaller vehicle classes and thus affordable for all drivers.

It’s not only the visionary Monza Concept car, with its characteristic silhouette and numerous different LED technologies, that shows what drivers can expect from Opel in the future. Opel engineers are already going a step further: they are now developing and preparing for the introduction of what is called LED matrix light. This Opel automotive lighting system of the future turns night into day for drivers without dazzling other road users. It enables drivers to react more quickly and thus prevent impending accidents.

The road to such advanced safety lighting has been a long one. 100 years ago, Bosch first shed light on the darkness of road traffic with the introduction of electric headlamps. Since then, GM and Opel have been at the forefront of the development of trendsetting headlamp systems, actively contributing to ever-increasing safety in road traffic.

Achieving more together: AFL+ and the Opel Eye front camera

The newest generation of AFL+, together with the further developed, higher performance Opel Eye front camera, features up to ten lighting functions (see appendix) and is available in a wide range of Opel vehicles. The sub-compact Mokka SUV and the Astra family boast this highly-praised modern safety lighting, as does the mid-size Cascada convertible, the Zafira Tourer compact van and the new Insignia. This innovative system dramatically increases active safety while reducing night-time driving stress. The variable xenon headlamp beam automatically adapts to diverse driving situations, road and weather conditions with variable light distribution provided for city driving, pedestrian areas, country roads, highways and adverse weather. In addition, AFL+ includes functions such as dynamic curve light, cornering light and energy-saving LED daytime running lights. The direction and intensity of the light beam is adjusted according to the steering angle and vehicle speed. Also part of AFL+, high beam light assistant automatically switches the headlamps to low beam when the forward-facing camera, integrated in the interior mirror mounting, recognizes the headlamps or tail lights of other vehicles. Furthermore, a special Light and Visibility Pack includes automatic low beam lighting with tunnel recognition and a rain sensor.

Bright as day: The LED matrix light system

Engineers at Opel’s International Technical Development Center in Rüsselsheim are now working on their next-generation lighting system for upcoming Opel vehicles. This is again a feature that has hitherto been reserved for vehicles in the luxury class. LED matrix light provides glare-free, high beam lighting which is automatically and constantly adapted for varying traffic situations. In this way, the LED matrix light functions like AFL+ with the Opel Eye front camera. When light sources are detected from oncoming or preceding traffic, individual LEDs in the relevant zone are deactivated, while the rest of the road remains brightly illuminated.

“Right now we are intensively testing this new system in our prototypes,” says Ingolf Schneider, Supervisor Lighting Technology at Opel. Its distinct advantages have also been confirmed in a study conducted by the Department of Lighting Technology at the Technical University of Darmstadt. The study shows that at driving speeds of 80 km/h, objects at the side of the road can be detected around 1.3 seconds faster with the matrix light than with conventional xenon low beam lighting. “This is a good 30 meter difference,” says Schneider. “That almost equals the braking distance required to come to a standstill from 100 km/h.” The matrix light concept will be gradually rolled out across Opel’s car lines in the next few years.

Shedding light on darkness: From carbide lamps to adaptive driving light

But the road to achieving optimal night vision for car drivers was a long one for engineers. What is today taken for granted in road traffic was simply unimaginable over 100 years ago, when lanterns with candles were carried in front of cars. The intention was not to illuminate the road, but rather to be seen by other road users. Later acetylene and carbide lamps cast their dim light on often unpaved roads. It wasn’t until 1913, when Bosch invented the electric headlamp, that light was truly brought into the darkness of road traffic. The Bosch automotive lighting system comprised headlamps, a generator, a battery and a regulator, replacing high-maintenance and dangerous gas lights. The concept used a generator to produce electricity which was stored in the battery and then transmitted to the headlamps. This system laid the foundation on which lighting technology continued to be developed over the coming decades.

For many years, Opel has been a trailblazer in offering state-of-the-art technologies which provide real value for a large customer base. So it was no surprise when Opel became the first automaker to introduce dynamic curve light and 90-degree cornering light with the innovative AFL system in the mid-size class in 2003. The following year, the Opel Astra became the first compact car to feature curve light, and in 2006 the brand further democratized safety technology when it made bi-halogen curve and cornering light available in the minivan and small car segments for the first time in the Meriva and Corsa.

In 2008, the next lighting system generation, AFL+, made its debut with the launch of the Insignia, setting a new standard in the automotive industry. The variable xenon headlamp light beam distribution adjusts to the road profile, driving speed and prevailing road conditions. The system upgrades offer numerous automatic lighting functions and include LED daytime running lights which require considerably less electrical power, reducing vehicle fuel consumption compared to the use of conventional low beam headlamps. Opel has won the Allianz Deutschland AG “Genius 2010” award as well as the Euro NCAP Advanced Award from the independent consumer organization Euro NCAP (European New Car Assessment Programme) for its safety lighting system.

Overview of Opel safety lighting system AFL+ functions:

In addition to signature Opel wing-shaped LED daytime running lights for optimal “be seen” lighting, AFL+ offers the following functions so nothing is left in the dark:

  • Pedestrian Area Light is activated automatically at driving speeds between five and 30 km/h. The function adjusts the cone of light for both headlamps by eight degrees toward each roadside. With this light, pedestrians and children playing next to the road – who often cannot properly judge the speed of an approaching vehicle – can be seen earlier.
  • At speeds under 50 km/h, Town Light provides a wider, symmetrical beam with reduced range, helping drivers see pedestrians at the roadside better. The Town Light’s beam intensity is less than the normal low beam because of the presence of additional light sources such as street lamps.
  • Country Road Light provides a brighter and wider light cone to both sides of the road than a conventional low beam. This helps drivers see potential hazards, such as animals, at the sides of the road earlier. It is activated between 50 and 100 km/h, projecting the light beam 70 meters ahead.
  • Highway Light intensifies and slightly raises the headlamp beam when there is no risk of blinding oncoming traffic and the smoother road surface causes fewer vehicle body movements. Its light cone creates a 140 meter long beam, improving illumination of the left-hand roadside while increasing lighting power from 35 to 38 watts to noticeably improve visibility. Highway Light activates automatically above 100 km/h, but only when the steering angle sensor indicates that the road’s curve radii do not match those of a country road.
  • Adverse Weather Light is activated when the rain sensor detects a certain amount of moisture on the windshield, or the wipers are switched on and off in rapid succession. The light output is then distributed asymmetrically: The right headlamp beam intensity increases from 35 to 38 watts so the driver can see lane markings better. The left headlamp beam decreases from 35 to 32 watts and is shortened slightly to reduce the risk of blinding oncoming drivers, which often happens on wet, reflective road surfaces.
  • High Beam Light provides maximum headlamp beam output and range. It does not activate asymmetrically, but rather optimally illuminates the full width of the road. The headlamps brighten from 35 to 38 watts.
  • High Beam Light Assistant offers a considerable safety advantage when driving at night. The Assistant automatically activates the High Beam Light for better road illumination and improved visibility. The Opel Eye camera recognizes the headlamps or tail lights of other vehicles and automatically switches the headlamps to low beam to prevent blinding other road users.  
  • Dynamic Curve Light ensures improved illumination around bends by swiveling the bi-xenon headlamps up to 15 degrees right and left of the vehicle into the oncoming curve. The Curve Light angle is determined by the car’s speed and steering angle. When combined with the adaptive FlexRide chassis’ Sport mode, AFL+ responds even more quickly.
  • Static Cornering Light is activated at speeds below 40 km/h, or when reverse gear is engaged. It illuminates an area to the right or left of the vehicle up to a 90 degree angle, improving visibility when maneuvering in poorly lit areas, such as dark driveways.
  • Intelligent Light Ranging (ILR) uses the front camera to seamlessly adjust the headlamp low beam distance up to 350 meters for glare-free illumination.
Opel Monza Concept

Trend-setting: The visionary Monza Concept with its characteristic silhouette and countless different LED technologies shows what the motorist can expect from Opel in future.

LED matrix light system

One step ahead: With Opel’s LED matrix light system glare-free lighting is standard and adjusts automatically and continuously to every traffic situation.

Milestones in automotive lighting technology

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