Automotive

BMW to introduce laser headlights

BMW to introduce laser headlig...
BMW's i8 concept will be the first vehicle to sport laser headlights
BMW's i8 concept will be the first vehicle to sport laser headlights
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BMW's i8 concept will be the first vehicle to sport laser headlights
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BMW's i8 concept will be the first vehicle to sport laser headlights

In the past decade, LEDs have become increasingly popular for use on cars, mainly for use as turn signals, brake and park lights, and daytime running lamps, but more recently, also for use in headlights. Now BMW has revealed it is taking the next step in the development of vehicle headlight technology by working on the introduction of laser light headlights. The company says that laser light not only offers energy - and therefore fuel - savings, but could also enable entirely new design possibilities and light functions on vehicles to improve safety. It aims to have the technology ready for series production "within a few years."

While the prospect of cruising down the highway, arming the lasers and blasting obstacles to oblivion might sound appealing to some drivers, BMW says the originally bluish laser light beam isn't emitted directly, but is first converted by means of a fluorescent phosphor material inside the headlight into a pure white light that is suitable for use in road traffic. Therefore, the intensity of the laser light wouldn't pose any risk to humans, animals or wildlife and the emitted light would also be very bright and white, making it more comfortable to the eye.

Because it is a "coherent" light source, meaning its waves have a constant phase difference, BMW says that laser lighting can produce a near-parallel beam with an intensity that is a thousand times greater than LEDs. Additionally, laser lighting boasts less than half the energy consumption of LED headlights, which BMW points out would lead to fuel savings. Whereas LED lighting generates around 100 lumens per watt, laser lighting generates around 170 lumens.

The size of the individual laser diodes, which are just 10 microns in length, are also one hundredth the size of the one-millimeter-long, square-shaped cells used in LED lighting. BMW says this opens up all sorts of new design possibilities for integrating the light source into the vehicle. Although it's theoretically possible to radically reduce the size of the headlights, BMW says it has no plans to do so. Rather, the laser headlights would retain the conventional headlight surface area dimensions, with the reduced depth opening up new possibilities in the positioning of the headlights and the body styling of vehicles.

BMW says the laser lighting technology would be compatible with its current range of lighting technologies, such as Adaptive Headlights, the "Dynamic Lighting Spot" spotlighting system and the "Anti-Dazzle High-Beam Assist." Although it doesn't elaborate, BMW says the laser lighting would also enable the implementation of completely new functions, which will have minimal power consumption.

BMW's laser lighting will get its first airing in the BMW i8 concept. With a production model of that vehicle set to launch in 2013, lasers might be lighting up our roads very soon.

25 comments
Bill Bennett
oh, imagine the cost of repair, the early BuMmerW HID bulbs on the 740 make me iL were 300 coconuts each bet when not if, but when they fail two to three thousand each, come on down, watch my clients gulp, like my customers from Salem OR USA that needed two new ballasts on their MickieBenZ for only 5 thousand to fix their headlights, new cars are great
Nofijuidi Jumri
who cares the cost, if you can afford it, why not, not everything is for everyone
Steve Bennett
Reducing the size of the light source from one millimetre to a few microns opens up radically new design possibilities, but reducing the size of the headlight itself is ruled out? I don\'t get it.
Mel Tisdale
I am glad that they do not plan to reduce the size of the headlight. Even the some of the modern headlights are too small. We have to remember that headlights are not just for seeing by, they perform an equally important role of making a car visible, too. Perhaps they can polarize the light too. Make windscreens polarized at 90 degrees to that of the headlight and we have dazzle free motoring (Edwin Land)
Matt Green
Be nice if they can make them point in the right direction without blinding everyone...
PolishBear
Laser headlights, huh? Just the LAST thing I wanted to hear about, especially when more and more cars are being tricked out with all sorts of blinding, blue-white headlights and fog lights that their drivers think look cool but oncoming drivers are utterly annoyed by.
CliffG
I assume there will be three settings, one to illuminate, another to blind, and a third to vaporize. Why bother to tailgate?
Joseph Manske
\"The company says that laser light not only offers energy - and therefore fuel - savings\" How is this possible? Alternators produce as excess of electricity to charge the battery while also firing the spark plugs, running the computer, powering fans, etc. The engine does not burn more fuel due to changing loads from the alternator. Possibly this argument could be made in a hybrid or pure electric vehicle but overall it\'s specious.
Conor Raypholtz
first of all cost will be either lower or the same not more..... second i thank they where talking about the possibility of using the technology as a censor and HUD to detect and alert the driver of obstructions ahead... saving you the cost of a new car :D..... seriously though why would you think it would cost 2k per bulb, you know people buy cheap toys with lasers in them... for there cats....
Charles Bosse
What you would be seeing isn\'t the laser, but essentially a florescent bulb pumped by laser light instead of the current UV light. You could make is solid (more durable) and as 405nm laser diodes are cheep as dirt, the whole light (after engineering) would probably only cost $1 to manufacture and run on a few mW. In fact, the technology would probably be a great replacement for streetlamps and deploy-able (with the addition of a few rechargeable Li-ion AA\'s and a small solar cell) to places like rural Afghanistan where infrastructure is weak and extra night time lighting would make a big difference.