Lighting innovations

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Vehicle lights by ZKW are the product of burgeoning innovation in an exciting design.

Vehicle lights by ZKW are the product of burgeoning innovation in an exciting design. Our products don’t just light up the streets, they also improve safety at the same time. We identify and develop technology for the next-generation vehicles of the future. The following page will illuminate some current innovations at ZKW.


More power and less energy loss. The BMW i8 hybrid sports car will be the world’s first series-production vehicle to offer revolutionary laser high beams starting in fall of 2014. The “Laser boost” offers a significantly higher light intensity than LEDs, with around a 600 meter illumination range. It supplements the high-tech sports car’s powerful and intense LED headlights, doubling their previous lighting range. In addition, laser lights are significantly smaller and require around 30 percent less energy than even energy-saving LED lights. In addition to offering high power and good efficiency, the system is also especially safe: The enclosed, crash-safe laser lights are diffused through a specialized phosphorous element and converted into a bright white high beam. This is perceived as more pleasant by the human eye, and also significantly improves vision during night driving. The laser emitting diodes provide 3 watts of power and generate a luminous flux of around 500 lumens with a 0.3 millimeter light beam. This means the technology is even superior to LEDs, that achieve around 250 lumens with a 1 millimeter light beam diameter.

The optical efficiency (the ratio between the light generated to the light output on the street) for laser lights is extraordinarily high, at 70 percent. In comparison, LEDS achieve around 40 percent, and xenon lights just 30 percent. The more powerful, concentrated laser light therefore provides better performance and range, while also offering smaller optics systems and headlight housings. This is reflected in the highly compact headlight design of the BMW i8. To master the tough challenges of the new laser technology, we used new development and simulation processes.

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Field tests show that many drivers activate their high beams too late at night then – in fear of blinding oncoming traffic – switch back to low beams too quickly. However, studies prove that accident rates climb sharply at night: difficult to see pedestrians are in especially high danger. Road users don’t need to be afraid of too much light: An automatic high beam assistant significantly increases the time high beams are switched on. A non-glare system allows high beams to be on for up to 90 percent of driving time – which also increases traffic safety.

ZKW has been developing and producing glare-free high beam systems for years, based on both highly complex mechatronic systems and on next-generation systems as well. The Matrix-lite by ZKW uses the specialized features of new LED light sources: Targeted activation of individual diodes allows the vehicle to directly generate glare-free high beams by actively and electronically switching individual LED segments on and off.

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Intelligent systems, in which the light distribution automatically adapts to specific traffic and weather situations, provide much better driving comfort and safety than traditional low beams. “Adaptive Frontlighting System” (AFS) solutions, which offer a large number of innovative functions, are based on the development of dynamic cornering lights.

Highway light: The light beam is raised at high speeds, and the intensity and thereby the range of the light are increased. This improves reaction times and safety in hazardous situations.

Dynamic cornering lights: The light beam is swiveled into the curve depending on the steering wheel angle to provide a better view.

Rural road light: The rural road light provides a classic low beam light distribution. The light beam has a longer range on the right side of the road, helping drivers to recognize pedestrians sooner. A cut-off line ensures that oncoming traffic isn’t blinded by light in the opposing lane.

Poor weather light: Targeted alteration of the light distribution improves safety in bad weather. for example, less light is emitted into the area directly in front of the vehicle, in order to reduce reflections on puddles (and glare blinding oncoming traffic).

City light: Avoids blinding other road users thanks to a horizontal cut-off line. In addition, the area directly in front of the vehicle is lit better in order to recognize obstacles earlier.

ZKW developed a completely new product for Munich-based premium manufacturer BMW: the adaptive motorcycle cornering light. The first main headlight for two-wheeled vehicles with roll and pitch angle compensation has been on the market since 2010.

In traditional systems, headlights light out of curves, raising and lowering as the vehicle accelerates or brakes. ZKW’s innovation is different: In our product, the low beam is generated by a xenon projection module and reflected by a motor-operated mirror. A swiveling lens in the xenon module compensates as the front of the vehicle, and the headlight along with it, lifts during acceleration or dips while braking. The incline is also mapped during cornering, and the light beam automatically adapts to the specific tilt angle. That means the cut-off line on the road always stays straight, increasing driving safety decisively. In addition to low beams, the headlight also has two halogen high beams and two side marker lights powered by an LED module.

Pedestrians are hit four times more often at night as they are during the day. A night view system in the GZA recognizes all moving objects in the field of view, even if they haven’t yet been illuminated by the headlight. A clever image processing system identifies potential hazards and marks them with a sharply defined beam of light if there is the increased likelihood of a collision. The driver’s attention is guided directly to the recognized dangerous object. This lets drivers save valuable reaction time to help them avoid accidents with pedestrians or wild animals.

ZKW brought the first marking light to the market for the BMW 7. It is based on LED technology and equipped with a swiveling projection lens.

Safe and beautiful

Is it possible to catch the light, or to shape it? It is. We give it a shell, a support, and an unmistakable character. We understand that headlight and signal light design is a key component of modern vehicle design, because we are aware of the growing importance of the “eyes” of a vehicle.

By using LEDs in combination with fiber optics, illuminated plates, and bodies, we are able to eliminate most technical limitations when it comes to our designs. That’s how we can so skillfully accentuate characteristic, brand-specific features both in daytime and nighttime operations.

That’s why we derived the characteristic double tube design for the BMW 6 from a transparent, freely shapable 3D body: we developed an innovation for the BMW 7 in which low beams and daytime driving lights come from the same aperture in both tubes, creating a uniform appearance any time of day. Safety needs to be functional – ideally, it would also be beautiful to look at too.

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