Improved road safety through optimum lighting

Innovation project: Actuator-based systems for self-aligning intelligent headlamp technology

Driving in the dark poses safety risks: according to the Federal Statistical Office of Germany (Statistisches Bundesamt), one in four accidents involving personal injury in 2010 occurred at night. On top of that, 220,000 animals were killed and property damage of EUR 500 million was caused by wildlife collisions. One reason for this is incorrectly adjusted headlamps. In Germany, the headlamps in 40% of cars and commercial vehicles are incorrectly adjusted. Headlamps that are angled too high dazzle other road users; if angled too low, the driver is unable to identify hazards in time due to the poorly lit surroundings. Both effects have a negative impact on object visibility. Until now, headlamps have always been adjusted during vehicle construction, after which only manual readjustments are possible. These are not carried out regularly. To improve road safety, car headlamps therefore need to be self-aligning.

The aim of the research project is to develop a headlamp system that analyzes data from the vehicle and surroundings, making autonomous mechanical adjustments to ensure optimum headlamp alignment and lighting conditions on the road ahead.

The overall concept is based on three pillars that jointly contribute to the success of the project. These include the choice of material, sensors and data processing, and actuators. The mechanical elements previously required for manual headlamp adjustments are replaced with self-regulating drive technology. Innovative sensors, such as intelligent cameras, continuously analyze information on the surroundings and convert it into control signals that an actuator system then uses to make continuous adjustments to headlamp alignment. The research project draws on the results of cross-sectional projects in self-optimization, energy efficiency and systems engineering. The system components are tested for quality and reliability using a prototype before going into series production.

Intelligent headlamp systems are able to make autonomous adjustments to alignment and ensure that lighting conditions on the road ahead are situation-specific, improving road safety and reducing the demands on drivers. These innovative headlamp and lighting systems can also be used in other areas, e.g. in stationary street lighting or airfield lights at airports.

Project duration
01 October 2012 - 30 September 2015