Headlamps have illuminated the nighttime roads for over a hundred years, developing from their humble beginnings as kerosene lamps into incandescent lamps, and then halogen lights, and then HID (High-Intensity Discharge) lights, and then finally to the modern high-efficiency LED lights. The modern-day headlamps have developed into not mere safety features but versatile parts that provide both convenience and safety. But exactly how far the developments have come? The answer may be found by looking into Genesis’s Intelligent Front-Lighting System (IFS), a cutting-edge headlamp system applied to the Genesis GV80, G80, and G90 (2021 model).
The quad lamps, which have quickly established themselves as one of Genesis’s main design identities, are home to thinly-shaped modules that contain the essence of headlamps’ modern innovation. The upper lamps house the low-beam modules, and the lower lamps the high-beam ones; the edges at which the lamps face each other are lined with the LED bars, which house daytime running lights and turn signals. Altogether, the quad lamps give an edgy, compact feel without sacrificing functionality.
The IFS technology was applied to the high-beam module encased in the lower lamps. High-beams are often considered a double-edged sword: while they ensure the visibility of the driver who uses them, the added visibility often comes at a sacrifice of the driver from the oncoming car, who may be blinded by the powerful stream of light. The IFS, though, comes with the partial light control capability that prevents such dazzling effects from happening, ensuring added visibility without inconveniencing other drivers.
Thinning the headlamps inevitably results in smaller-sized lamp units, which in turn tends to decrease lighting performance. But using small, powerful, energy-efficient LED lights allows compact lamp structures without such performance sacrifices. Genesis’s quad lamps employ such high-quality LED lights to ensure performance, all the while diversifying the light sources into four units to allow more precise control of beam patterns.
Each high-beam module contains a Matrix Beam LED, which aligns a whopping 8 LEDs in a row and therefore can offer high, concentrated visibility. As each headlamp contains two high-beam modules, a total of 32 LEDs collaborate to light the front. Thanks to this diversification of light sources, the IFS can precisely control the direction and the intensity of light beams.
The light waves generated by the Matrix Beam LED are subjected through two special lenses that control the beam patterns. The optic lens positioned directly in front of the light source creates rectangular matrix beam patterns; these patterns then go through the freeform lens, which refracts and/or diffuses the pattern. The powerful lights from the IFS’s efficient LEDs would be in vain if not for the assistance from these optical structures.
While LED lights release relatively less heat compared to halogen lights, maintaining optimal lamp performance requires a plan for heat dissipation―a way to disperse the heat that allows the regulation of the device’s temperature. The heat sink, positioned in the far rear side of the high-beam module, serves this purpose. As seen, the IFS is a consummate collection of a multitude of parts that serve their respective roles in the module.
Broadly speaking, the IFS functions in three steps: first, the forward-facing camera on the top of the windshield detects the positions of vehicles ahead and sends the location and angle info to the headlamp controller. Then, the headlamp controller calculates the ‘disturbance zone,’ in which the other drivers’ visibility will be disturbed, and designates the corresponding LED lights among the 32 Matrix Beam LEDs. Finally, the high-beam module turns off just the LED lights designated by the headlamp controller, leaving the rest of the lights on.
The IFS could be considered as an evolved form of the HBA (High-Beam Assist), which similarly works to secure other drivers’ visibility at night. A standard HBA works by temporarily disabling the high beam once it detects an oncoming vehicle in the front. But because it turns off the high beam completely, if only for a few seconds, it does not secure the driver’s visibility consistently.
The IFS, on the other hand, successfully addresses this issue. Like HBA, it keeps the high beams on perpetually, but once it detects vehicles ahead, it is capable of partially turning off only the high beam lights that disrupt the other driver(s), thereby securing the driver’s consistent visibility.
Needless to say, headlamp technology will continue to evolve. At least in the short-term, though, the fundamental purpose of the headlamp―illuminating the road without disrupting other drivers’ visibility―is expected to stay the same. The structure and alignment of lamps may change, but this fundamental aim will not, and of course, the development of the IFS was in line with this aim as well.
But what will the future bring? It is easy to imagine a more powerful version of today’s technology, which will have more precise control of stronger lights. Increasing the number of LED lights in the Matrix Beam to increase the light resolution would be one example; using MEMS (Micro Electro Mechanical System), otherwise known as nanomachines, to produce advanced optical systems is another commonly discussed foreseeable evolution.
But the experts say that a true evolution in headlamps will arrive upon the advent of fully autonomous cars. Road conditions will have to change, possibly bringing changes that will defy our well-established norms about the location, shape, and role of headlamps.
The M Vision Concept, revealed by Hyundai Mobis in the last CES, gives us such a glimpse of headlamps’ future. The DMD (Digital Micro-mirror Device) headlamps on the M Vision Concept include 400,000 micro-mirrors that work to freely control headlamp lights. More than just illuminating the road, though, the DMD headlamps are capable of drawing texts or signals that assist other drivers or pedestrians―even during daytime. For example, suppose a crossing pedestrian is overlooking a pothole or a pool of muddy water. The DMD headlamps can illuminate the dangerous area and print the text ‘be careful’ on the car’s front panel, providing a warning to the off-guard pedestrian.
Today, a technology’s worth is not gauged only by its usefulness to the user; a truly cutting-edge technology ought to also consider its interaction with, and effects on, the other members of the society. In this vein, automotive technology is evolving to maximize the driver’s convenience and safety while being considerate of other drivers’ needs. The IFS―whose very function is to be useful to the driver while minimizing the visibility disruption to others―embodies this crucial philosophy too.
*The Genesis’s IFS was developed in collaboration with SL and Hyundai Mobis.
HMG Journal Operation Teamgroup@hyundai.com
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