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Intelligent Light System
Tuesday, 07 February 2006
Mercedes-Benz unveils the Intelligent Light System, a new generation of adaptive car headlamps which is now entering series production. These adapt to the prevailing driving and weather conditions, thereby significantly enhancing safety. New lighting functions such as country and motorway light modes increase the driver’s range of visibility by up to 50 metres. The Intelligent Light System also includes the active light and cornering light functions, as well as new, enhanced fog lamps which illuminate the road edges and therefore provide even better orientation when visibility is poor.

The new, intelligent headlamps are a continuation of many years of effort by Mercedes-Benz to make driving safer at night. Despite the lower volume of traffic, the risk of a serious accident is twice as high during the hours of darkness as it is during the daytime.

The lighting system incorporates variably controllable headlamps with five different light functions. Mercedes-Benz plans to combine the Intelligent Light System with the bi-xenon headlamps offered as an option in the E-Class, becoming the first manufacturer to provide its customers with the best lighting technology currently available.

In the E-Class Mercedes-Benz has upgraded its bi-xenon low-beam headlamps with their highly effective, asymmetrical light distribution into a new country mode which illuminates the left-hand edge of the road more widely and brightly. The driver’s range of vision is increased by around ten metres, which gives him better orientation in the dark and allows him to respond more rapidly when other road users cross his path.

Far-reaching: new motorway mode with longer range

From a road speed of 90 km/h the new motorway mode is automatically switched on in two stages: in stage one the output of the xenon lamps is increased from 35 to 38 watts, and in stage two the range of the nearside headlamp is increased when a speed of 110 km/h is reached. The result is a uniform cone of light which illuminates the entire road width to a range of up to 120 metres. At the centre of this cone the driver is able to see around 50 metres further than with conventional low beams, which allows him to recognise vehicles, even at very long distances, and adapt his driving style accordingly.

The enhanced fog lamps, which are also part of the new Intelligent Light System, provide better orientation in adverse weather conditions. If visibility becomes less than 50 metres, the vehicle speed falls below 70 km/h and the driver switches on the rear fog lamp, the left bi-xenon headlamp of the E-Class swivels outwards by eight degrees and, at the same time, lowers the cone of light. This illuminates the nearside of the road more efficiently, while the wider beam reduces backglare in fog. The enhanced fog lamps remain switched on up to a speed of 100 km/h.

The active light function, which Mercedes-Benz first offered in the E-Class in spring 2003, has been developed further by the engineers in Sindelfingen. The swivel angle of the headlamps has been increased from 12 to 15 degrees, providing even better illumination on tight bends. With the active light function, which operates at both low beam and main beam, the bi-xenon headlamps automatically follow the steering angle. Road illumination is improved by up to 90 percent when negotiating bends.

The Intelligent Light System also includes the cornering light function, in which one of the two fog lamps is automatically switched on when the driver operates an indicator or turns the steering wheel. As a result, the range of side visibility ahead of the vehicle is increased by around 30 metres. The cornering light function is activated up to a speed of 40 km/h.

Interior: ambient lighting as a safety factor

In addition to the new Intelligent Light System, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class also offers a unique lighting concept in the interior: ambient lighting, which provides effective yet discreet and glare-free illumination of the interior for driving at night. The system incorporates light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in the door handle recesses and footwells, as well as special luminous panels in the roof liner. This means that the sense of spaciousness and the high quality of the interior can also be appreciated by night.

The E-Class is the only car in its market segment to feature such a sophisticated and well-conceived lighting concept for the interior. It not only ensures a particularly pleasant interior lighting mood, but also enhances the driver’s operating and perceptive safety during the hours of darkness. This is because the permanent interior lighting lends better visual support to control processes and allows easier recognition of the switch arrays in the centre console. It also reduces the need for the eyes to adapt to the difference in brightness between the vehicle interior and the road, which means less strain on the eyes and therefore less rapid fatigue.

Furthermore, a pleasant "visual atmosphere" makes a major contribution to driver-fitness safety because the ambient lighting has a psychologically and biologically stimulating effect on the driver and therefore improves his performance potential.

Outlook: high-performance LEDs for the car headlamps of the future

In the future Mercedes engineers plan to implement the new lighting functions of the Intelligent Light System with the help of LED headlamps. They expect that in a few years’ time, white multi-chip LEDs will be capable of delivering the same output as today’s xenon lamps.

In addition to a lower space requirement and a very long service life, LEDs have further advantages for vehicle lighting. If several LEDs are connected in series to form arrays, each individual LED can be separately controlled to adapt the light distribution to suit the current driving situation in fractions of a second. This will make lighting functions such as motorway mode, the active light function and the cornering light function possible by purely electronic means.

Moreover, the extremely rapid response of LEDs allows an innovative, adaptive main-beam function which Mercedes engineers are currently testing in practical trials. A camera behind the windscreen registers oncoming vehicles and calculates their distance. An electronic control unit uses this information to dip the main beam as required. In this way technology resolves the conflict of aims between prevention of dazzle and the best possible range of visibility.

LEDs will also be able to perform additional tasks when used as brake lights. Mercedes engineers plan to use these rapid light signals to transfer data as well. Their light impulses can e.g. provide information about the actual braking deceleration of the vehicle ahead. The Brake Assist system can then use this to adapt the brake pressure to suit the individual situation. In this way the technology of the future can help to prevent rear-end collisions.

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