South Korea’s SL Corporation develops and manufactures rearview mirrors, lighting systems, front-end modules and chassis parts.  In this interview, Matthew Beecham talked with company executives about trends in automotive lighting, specifically LEDs and their application to enhance interior and exterior light sources.

What trends are you seeing in OEMs’ strategies with regard to vehicle lighting systems?

The major OEMs are continually looking for headlamps which are intelligent, lightweight, consume less power and express the vehicle’s identity.  Consequently, the use of LEDs is becoming commonplace. A number of OEMs are also developing active safety lamp technology, integrating ADAS systems.
What are the benefits and opportunities of LED technology in automotive applications?

The use of LEDs can enhance the vehicle interior and improve road visibility.  LEDs enable a number of different options and designs to be applied to the vehicle.  In fact, their introduction has led to new market growth opportunities.  LEDs last longer than conventional bulbs, can be installed in tight spaces and provide almost daylight quality in the cased of headlamp applications.

As LED automotive headlamps gains momentum, are there concerns about the permissibility of colour fringes observed in the headlight pattern?

In designing LED lamps, colour fringes can pose challenges although we managed to overcome this.  For example, the Hyundai Equus and Genesis headlamps meet the regulations.

For some time, the North American automotive lighting market has lagged behind that of Europe. To what extent are the Asians catching-up in terms of, say, styling and the application of LEDs?

To further expand the application of LED lighting, LED makers should develop low cost and high efficiency LEDs. And lamp makers should develop low cost thermal systems. In terms of headlamp styling, South Korean consumers are changing their lamp style and design through DIY. In near the future, these consumer needs seen in the aftermarket will be applied to mass production.

While the current focus seems to be on LED, to what extent does electroluminescent systems allow for the realisation of adaptable laminar illumination for instrument panels, interior lighting, signal lamps, etc?

Consumers prefer simple and elegant styles. In order to accomplish this, LED light sources will be expanded for light guides and interior lighting applications. In the future, we envisage that this trend will be applied to the lower vehicle segments, too.

What are the opportunities for electroluminescent technology for ambient lighting solutions?

A variety of designs can be implemented, and eligibility is very effective in reducing power consumption.  As the LED’s light efficiency is improved, electroluminescent technology will be greatly developed. We expect electroluminescent technology to be applied to other lighting systems. In addition, we envisage that the lighting system market will be increased with a variety of designs using this technology.

In terms of vehicle style (and branding), to what extent are you see vehicle model names being incorporated within headlamps?

To represent a vehicle`s identity, headlamps are one of the most important components. Thus, it is important to represent vehicle`s identity with styling in headlamps. So, we should make people associate headlamps with vehicle`s name. To illustrate, Audi`s headlamps does an excellent job of representing the brand’s identity.

Lighting regulations are now greatly reduced in number and substantially harmonised.  What impact has this had on your business?

We think diversities and differentiations of lighting are growing from the regulations, as a range of various functions and designs are expanding. So we could expand our business operations and develop our technical skills.

What were the challenges in developing front lighting that meets pedestrian safety?

We in SL developed two types of headlamps for pedestrian`s safety, namely DHB [Dynamic High Beam] and Spot Head Lamp. Both have special functions. For pedestrian safety, these units improve driver`s visibility without any glare to other drivers by using a camera in front of vehicle. They can detect pedestrians using a Night Vision System. For example, our Spot Head Lamp can prevent accidents from warning the location of pedestrian to driver and pedestrian can perceive vehicle at night.  While developing Spot Head lamp, it was a challenge to distinguish between pedestrians, cars, animals and other objects at night.