Volkswagen ID3 matrix LED-based headlamp stripped bare by PISÉO

The automotive lighting industry is driven by the demand to develop smarter, more energy-efficient and effective lighting systems for improved safety and comfort when driving at night. In addition, car manufacturers aim to differentiate themselves with a unique lighting signature. Engineers must, therefore, balance a number of criteria, including performance, regulatory compliance, aesthetics, and cost, making the design of the whole system increasingly complex.

Intense competition in the market is forcing car equipment makers to broaden their fields of expertise and skills by acquiring companies that already have knowledge and know-how in innovative lighting technologies.  This is a typical strategy adopted by Plastic Omnium this year, which has added new technological building blocks to its portfolio with the acquisition of AMLS (Automotive Lighting Systems GmbH) in March and Varroc Lighting Systems (VLS) in October.

In its latest report VW ID3 headlamps construction and performance analysis, PISÉO, always one step ahead of technology trends, lifts the veil on the architecture and performance of the Volkswagen ID3 front light, designed and manufactured by VLS. The report is aimed at engineers, designers, and marketers looking for an up-to-date and in-depth analysis of a headlight system based on ADB (Adaptive Driving Beam) technology.

In this report, Olivier Andrieux, Innovation Leader & System Architect and Joel Thomé, CEO at PISÉO reveal the steps in the building process and the compromises VLS engineers had to make to design this device based on a technology that is attracting increasing interest among leading car and automotive equipment manufacturers.

Discover today a snapshot of this new performance analysis.

ADB-based systems: smarter headlamps for safer roads

From halogen to xenon to LED, lighting technology in the automotive industry has undergone major shifts since the 1970s, with a quantum leap forward in less than two decades due to the emergence of matrix LED headlights.

As part of an Adaptive Driving Beam system that includes a sensor network and an ECU (Electronic Control Unit), matrix LED lighting devices have been developed to provide smart front lighting. The light from the matrix LED module is split up into several individually controllable subsegments which are switched on or off depending on the driving environment while providing optimum light distribution with no blinding of other drivers. The more LEDs are integrated, the higher the resolution. Despite LED’s ultra-low latency, the difficulty, at the overall ADB system level, still remains in minimizing the time between data collection and the actual light flow change.

PISÉO sheds light on Volkswagen’s ID3 headlamps

In partnership with A2MAC1, which provided access to the vehicle, PISÉO, backed up by solid expertise in optical performance tests and the integration of photonic optical technologies, delved into the heart of Volkswagen’s ID3 front light device to review a complete state-of-the-art review of a very complex lighting system. The value of the system, its original design features and strengths, along with its weaknesses, are consolidated in the report, ‘VW ID3 headlamps construction and performance analysis’, after in-depth and objective cross-analysis of the architecture and performance characterization.

In this report, PISÉO’s experts detail the choices made to integrate the matrix module composed of seven LEDs and 11 ADB segments into an intricate mesh of optics, electronics, mechanics, assembly, and thermal management. They highlight the tremendous design, development, and industrialization effort that has gone into addressing performance and integration constraints. Accurate performance measurements, data modeling, and regulatory compliance analyses were conducted to provide the reader with a detailed mapping of the performance of each function and its link to the system architecture.

As a result, the report reveals that the ID3 headlight is a high-quality product; its main strength lies in good optical architecture and photometric performance. However, the teardown unveils low rationality in the mechanical and electronic architecture of the system – illustrated, for instance, by a surprising layout of LED PCBs (Printed Circuit Boards) in the LED source module – that confirms a design partly governed by the aesthetics of the front light. The heatsink design also suffers from a lack of optimization, and the presence of a fan raises doubts as to the efficiency and reliability of thermal dissipation management. Performance evaluation with regard to regulatory compliance has been completed and reveals that the ID3 headlight compliance regarding beam projection exceeds regulatory requirements. However, compliance in terms of colorimetry may be a topic for discussion.

Automotive lighting technological developments: the race for more resolution with more integration

Since the introduction of LED headlights in 2007, the automotive lighting market has been experiencing significant expansion. Estimated at $31 billion in 2021, it is set to reach $42 billion within the next five years, boosted by the growing introduction of LED-based technologies extended to all car models and the search for more precise control of more powerful lights. 

While the core market aims to supply 20- to 200-pixel systems, high-resolution LED headlamps based on Digital Micromirror Device (DMD) technology already feature more than one million pixels. These products offer new communication functionalities with, for example, the projection onto the road of guiding lines or warning symbols.    

Leading LED suppliers such as Osram, Lumileds, Nichia, and Samsung intend to go one step further in combining more resolution with more integration: highly integrated HD modules (up to 30,000 pixels) with embedded microLEDs, driver, and thermal management system will emerge within the next year or two. This will make the headlamp design significantly easier and free up some space to either integrate more functionalities with sensors (which would undoubtedly result in new constraints) or, more likely, foster the emergence of distinctive new automotive lighting designs.

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About the authors

As Innovation Leader and System Architect at PISÉO, Olivier Andrieu oversees technical expertise and innovation projects at PISÉO. Olivier supervises the design of numerous photonic systems for different sectors that have been commercialized He also performs many technical analyses of photonic systems and published several reports in collaboration with Yole Group’s teams.

His career has allowed him the opportunity to innovate in the automotive sector in connection with sensors and battery management systems, as well as within Philips Lighting, where he acted as a System Architect. He holds a degree in Engineering and a PhD in Physics from the INPG Graduate School.

Joël Thomé is CEO of PISEO. He drives a team of highly skilled engineers dedicated to the integration of photonic technologies (LEDs, lasers, photodiods, imagers…) for any application.

With a Master’s Degree in mechanical engineering, Joel has been working previously at Philips Lighting for more 20 years where he lately held international management positions in the fields of innovation and general management for LED-based and control systems. Together with Yole Group’s analysts and supported by his team he performs technical and market analyses and consulting activities focusing on Photonics issues.

This article has been written in collaboration with Pierrick Boulay, Senior Analyst at Yole Intelligence, part of Yole Group.