More light and sight: The first ever car without a single light bulb

Nov 19, 2012
100 years or so after the introduction of electric lighting in motor vehicles, Mercedes-Benz is now making a complete switch to LED technology –
next year, the new S-Class will become the first vehicle in the world to do without a single light bulb as standard. The lighting's multi-level functionality is another world first: out of consideration for any road users behind, the intensity of the brake lights is reduced at night-time or while waiting at traffic lights. Meanwhile, visibility is enhanced by two assistance systems that have undergone some key improvements – Adaptive Highbeam Assist PLUS and Night View Assist PLUS.
Mercedes-Benz is due to further underline its pioneering role in the field of lighting technology: the new S-Class that is coming onto the market next year will not have a single light bulb on board. Over 190 LEDs will assume the task of illuminating the road, vehicle, interior and luggage compartment instead.
"With its long life and a colour temperature resembling daylight, LED technology already had a great deal in its favour," remarks Prof. Dr. Thomas Weber, Member of the Daimler Board of Management responsible for Group Research and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars Development. "Now, though, our engineers have made great advances where energy efficiency is concerned too, reducing power consumption to a quarter of that of conventional headlamps."
The new energy-saving LED low-beam headlamps, for instance, require 34 watts to produce the same light output, making them notably more efficient than halogen (120 watts) and xenon light sources (84 watts, all figures per vehicle). This translates into a saving of up to 0.05 litresof fuel per 100 kilometres or 2.1 grams of CO2 per kilometre compared to a vehicle fitted with halogen low-beam headlamps. Efficiency is given a further crucial boost by new, high-performance single-chip LED diodes and a newly developed projector module in the headlamp unit, in which deflected beams of light are reflected back again.
Even the entry-level model in the new luxury saloon range will come with all-LED lighting. The supplementary functions of the Intelligent Light System as well as Adaptive Highbeam Assist PLUS can be added as options.
Permanent high beam with no dazzling: Adaptive Highbeam Assist PLUS
For the first time, the Adaptive Highbeam Assist PLUS allows the high-beam headlamps to be kept on permanently while driving by masking out other road user detected in the beams' cone of light. If the camera-based system registers either oncoming traffic or vehicles ahead, it will adapt the light distribution according to the specific situation when the high beam is switched on. Consequently, the driver can simply leave the high-beam headlamps on at all times and use their full range without irritating or even endangering other road users. There is no need to switch them on and off manually, resulting in a significant increase in the overall driving time with high beam.
Adaptive Highbeam Assist PLUS likewise makes use of the new stereo camera also employed by other assistance systems. If its image recognition algorithm picks up a vehicle that is oncoming or driving ahead, it actuates a mechanism in the headlamp module. This then masks the portion of the LED headlamp's high-beam cone of light where there are other vehicles to prevent their drivers being dazzled. If road users are detected outside the area that can be masked – for instance when cornering with multiple vehicles in the headlamps' beams – the system will switch to the familiar system of headlamp range control using the low-beam headlamps.
Possible backglare caused by increased use of the main beam and highly reflective signs at the side of the road is also detected and eliminated by dimming the headlamps accordingly.
Adaptive Highbeam Assist PLUS builds on the Adaptive Highbeam Assist system first introduced by Mercedes-Benz in 2009. If this system detects oncoming traffic or traffic driving ahead with the help of a camera, it dips the headlamps and automatically adapts the low beam's range according to the situation. In this way, it allows the road to be illuminated for a long way ahead without dazzling other drivers. In addition to this, adaptive control of the
low-beam headlamp range with smooth transitions results in gentler lighting changes that the eyes can adjust to fast.
Considerate to others: tail lights with automatic intensity control
The new S-Class shows itself to be highly considerate of its fellow road users in another way, too: Mercedes-Benz has achieved yet another world first by developing tail lights with multi-level functionality, meaning that the brake lights and indicators are operated at varying intensities depending on the current driving state and ambient brightness levels (day/night).
If the Mercedes driver presses the brake pedal while stopped at traffic lights, for instance, the brightness of the brake lights will be automatically dimmed to avoid dazzling anyone behind. The light distribution is broadened to ensure the lights do not become too dim and continue to fulfil all legal requirements.
Detects pedestrians and animals: the advanced Night View Assist PLUS
For the first time, the new Night View Assist PLUS is capable of detecting not just pedestrians in potentially hazardous positions in front of the vehicle, but animals too. This third-generation night vision system automatically switches the instrument cluster display from the speedometer to a crystal-sharp night view image to alert the driver in unlit areas. Pedestrians or animals detected ahead are highlighted in colour in this image.
The spotlight function is additionally used to repeatedly flash pedestrians in the warning zone by means of a special module in the front headlamps. This attracts the driver's attention to the source of the danger at the same time as warning the person on the side of the road. The pedestrian detection function is now also available in urban areas with the night view image has been activated by the driver.
An additional (far) infrared sensor in the radiator grille supplements the proven Mercedes-Benz night vision technology. It is able to detect pedestrians at a distance of up to 160 metres, and animals such as deer, horses and cattle at up to 100 metres. Two separate light sources in the headlamp assemblies light up the area in front of the vehicle with invisible infrared light. This enables the near infrared camera positioned behind the windscreen next to the rear-view mirror to produce a sharp greyscale image in the instrument cluster display. This image can also be shown in the display permanently if desired at the press of a button.