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BMW Working On Laser Headlamps 330

Posted by samzenpus
from the hot-high-beams dept.
MrSeb writes "LED headlamps are only just trickling onto the market — mostly on high-end cars — but now it seems a certain German automaker has plans for laser headlamps. 'Laser light is the next logical step in car light development ... for series production within a few years in the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid,' says BMW. Lasers have the potential to be simultaneously more powerful, more efficient, and smaller than other headlamp types. Before you get too excited, though: the output of laser headlights will be modulated for safety."
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BMW Working On Laser Headlamps

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  • Ah wonderful (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Osgeld (1900440) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @12:35PM (#37317086)

    Its not like the HID lamps fucking blind you enough as it is, we need LASERS! so we can be blinded up to 2 miles away

    • by Scutter (18425)

      So, you didn't even read the summary, much less the article?

      • Re:Ah wonderful (Score:4, Insightful)

        by barlevg (2111272) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @12:42PM (#37317176)
        They can say all they like that they'll be "modulated for safety," but the truth is that THIS GENERATION of LED headlights are too bright. My car is low to the ground, and I don't have the best of night vision, so on more than a few many a dark, rainy nights, I've been nearly blinded by the LED headlights of the SUV behind me to the point that it took several such incidents for me to realize these assholes didn't just have their high-beams on.
        • by nschubach (922175)
          LED or Xenon?
        • by Skal Tura (595728)

          yeah i've had that problem too. my ride was so damn low (~125cm from ground to highest spot) and big rear window (coupe model) that i ended up turning my rear view mirror towards roof on many occasions.

        • Part of the problem is that most headlamps aren't aimed any more, but more of it has to do with the ridiculously large SUVs people are driving, that put the headlights higher and higher off the ground. Not to mention the modified lifted pickups that put the headlights even higher, and often lift the bumper well above legal limits so in a collision it will ride right over the hood or trunk of whatever they hit. I'm convinced that equipment rules need to be revisited and actually enforced, for public safety

          • My car auto levels the HIDs and I've never had someone flash their brights at me, but I've noticed that SUV lights can be blinding. It has made me want to install a mirror designed to help them out with realizing how annoying it is.

        • I'm pretty sure VW/Audi is the only manufacturer with LED headlights in production cars at this point... IIRC the 2010 Audi Q7 is the only production SUV with LED headlights, so unless you live in some really strange area where the entire population decided to buy Audi Q7s this year, I think you're confusing LED with HID, which are two COMPLETELY different technologies.

          Not to mention HIDs, despite being brighter, when designed and installed PROPERLY will actually do much less blinding than traditional ha
          • by X0563511 (793323)

            The 'flashes' I get when such cars hit a bump or crown a hill is far worse. I can adjust to just plain bright lights, but I cannot adjust to flashing/strobing lights.

        • by amorsen (7485)

          They aren't too bright, they're just pointed wrong. Just make automatic adjustment a requirement and the problem goes away. Or require that they automatically dim when following another car. Depending on how they do it, you could even make headlights which light up everything except the already-brightly-lit car in front.

          Really, the only problem with the factory-installed lights of high-end cars right now is that in many cases the rear LEDs flicker. This means that when you look away from them for a moment t

        • by muindaur (925372)

          This makes me glad I have the tab on the rearview. Even if you don't you might be able to achieve the same effect. All my tab does is point the mirror downwards. Get a friend, and try adjusting it down until you see the headlights reflected, but much dimmer. Remember the setting to switch for day/night. Might be annoying, but you might be able to get some relief if you don't have that tab. Though they are supposed to be much more common these days, as auto dim is the luxury feature.

      • by jandrese (485)
        Those HID headlamps are "modulated for safety" too, and that doesn't stop them from blinding every oncoming motorist the instant they're knocked even slightly out of alignment or those crazy cases where people drive on roads that aren't perfectly straight and level.

        I especially can't wait for the knockoff aftermarket replacement versions that don't even pretend to care about the safety of the other drivers.
        • by Osgeld (1900440)

          yea really, unmodulated HID lights can be bought at any hot rod shop, in microprint on the back it says "not for stree use"

          • by X0563511 (793323)

            Hrm, I can't imagine any case where you'd want to use HID lights with stree [thefreedictionary.com]... unless perhaps you're trying to start a fire?

    • Re:Ah wonderful (Score:4, Informative)

      by mcvos (645701) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @12:51PM (#37317306)

      Its not like the HID lamps fucking blind you enough as it is, we need LASERS! so we can be blinded up to 2 miles away

      My thoughts exactly. Biking in the dark and rain, oncoming headlines make it impossible to see anything other than painful light surrounded by a lot of dark. I'd like to see headlamps toned down a bit.

      • by Joce640k (829181)

        I'd like to see headlamps toned down a bit.

        Reflective road signs, too.

        Around here they're so reflective and so frequent that they might as well flash spotlights in your face while you're driving.

        While you're at it, make it legal shoot assholes who come up behind, move out to overtake, put their indicator on when they get to the driver's window then slowly drift back into your lane two feet in front of you to make sure you see it properly in all it's daytime-brightness glory. On dual lane roads with nobody else around....

        [mutters something about lawn

        • In the US, there is a federal mandate for all street signs to be converted to High Intensity Prismatic (retroreflective material) over the next few years.
      • by squizzar (1031726)

        On that note, someone needs to educate people on the correct occasions to use foglights (there's a clue in the name somewhere). Yes it's cool to have front foglights on your car, but you don't actually need them for anything but very bad conditions (so bad you should be turning your headlights off and using the front foglights exclusively). Turning them on in the rain reflects a lot of light back into your eyes and makes your night vision worse, and reflects a lot of light into my eyes, making me very sca

        • Apparently most people don't know that the human eye can't resolve blue light as well as the other end of the spectrum, so blue-tinted headlights trick your brain into the sensation of being brighter but actually cause you to be able to see less clearly (shapes and textures harder to make out, plus it seems to screw with your depth perception.)
      • Or aimed properly. At the road, rather than at other driver's eye level.
      • Its not like the HID lamps fucking blind you enough as it is, we need LASERS! so we can be blinded up to 2 miles away

        My thoughts exactly. Biking in the dark and rain, oncoming headlines make it impossible to see anything other than painful light surrounded by a lot of dark. I'd like to see headlamps toned down a bit.

        A .22 pistol with good laser sights. Tones those headlamps down in a snap. And if you miss and clobber the radiator, at least you've helped the next guy.

        (Disclaimer: Stunt performed on a closed circuit with professional drivers, do not attempt this by yourself)

    • by Splab (574204)

      Don't look into oncoming trafic with remaining eye...

      I'm not too worried about the BMW version, they are not the xeon lights blinding you - I'm worried about the cheap knock offs bound to hit the shelves and be put into some youths car with absolutely no safety.

    • My first thought was more along the lines of "what kind of idiot thought a laser would make a good flood lamp?"

      You don't need a point of light in your car headlights, you need a flood lamp that illuminates a large area. Either they're putting the mother of all lasers on their car, or they're running it through a light diffuser which would rather defeat the purpose of it being a laser. Or maybe it's not actually a laser, and this is just marketing drivel.

  • by jhoegl (638955) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @12:36PM (#37317090)
    Even my local news reported this before ./

    And as they stated, the LEDs are bright enough.. WTF we need lasers?
    • by Fnord666 (889225) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @12:42PM (#37317168) Journal

      And as they stated, the LEDs are bright enough.. WTF we need lasers?

      Among other things, laser light is a lot more energy efficient. According to the article, BMW is getting 170 lumens per watt as compared to 100 lumens per watt for LED lights.

      • by Baloroth (2370816)
        Also, as coherent light they can be focused better (much much better) than normal beams. Actually the problem will be making them unfocused enough to see the whole road.
        • by jbengt (874751)

          Also, as coherent light they can be focused better (much much better) than normal beams

          Except, according to TFA:

          . . . before the light from the tiny laser diodes is emitted onto the road, the originally bluish laser light beam is first of all converted by means of a fluorescent phosphor material inside the headlight into a pure white light which is very bright and pleasant to the eye.

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        Among other things, laser light is a lot more energy efficient. According to the article, BMW is getting 170 lumens per watt as compared to 100 lumens per watt for LED lights.

        I'm sure a 40% reduction in power usage for the headlights is really important when I only have a 200kW engine to power them.

      • 100 is old news. LEDs that get 160 Lumens per watt are already available. LED efficiency improves all the time.
    • by nschubach (922175)
      I certainly hope so. dotslash.com looks to be some kind of East Asian search engine and dotslash.org is a parked domain.
    • Every Watt of power drawn by the car's accessories is very important. Look for many more efficient accessories to come on the market.

  • by Jawnn (445279) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @12:36PM (#37317096)
    OK. Fine, but will the sharks be able to operate the headlight switch?
  • Laser light has significant disadvantages compared to the other kind. (what's the word for non-laser?) It may be less efficient to just spread several shades of light everywhere but it's kind of necessary to see everything.
    • Re:why lasers? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by barlevg (2111272) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @12:43PM (#37317188)

      (what's the word for non-laser?)

      incoherent?

      • by GodInHell (258915)

        what's the word for non-laser?)

        "Light"

        A "laser" is a device that emits light. The product of that device is light, or a "laser beam" -- the process of lasing just (big simplification) gets all the light going in the same direction at the same frequency. That results in a brighter / stronger beam of light, rather than allow the light to do what it is naturally inclined to do -- fly off in every direction.

        Today I can see no reason why I would rather have a laser light than ... say.. LED or Xenon (which a

        • by nschubach (922175)
          If you could focus the laser on objects in front of you, it might be kind of neat/beneficial. Something like a night vision camera that identifies objects in the distance and the laser fill is drawn on that object to accentuate it.
        • Today I can see no reason why I would rather have a laser light than ... say.. LED or Xenon (which are both pretty damn bright) . . . other than "lasers are neat."

          Exactly. Let's take light, bounce it back and forth so every photon is going the same direction, then put it through a headlamp that is designed to diffuse it. Seems much simpler to take the light that was already going in every direction, put some mirrors on the sides that you don't need, and done.

    • Re:why lasers? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by otis wildflower (4889) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @12:44PM (#37317208) Homepage

      incoherent light?

      IMO I'd rather see laser 'sparkplugs' first, I know Ford is working on them..

      • Is there a significant power savings there? Lasers seem like an overly complicated replacement for spark plugs, especially considering the inevitable degradation of the sparky end. Or are they part of a totally different engine design?

        I am intrigued.

        • Re:why lasers? (Score:5, Informative)

          by jittles (1613415) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @01:01PM (#37317462)
          The laser plugs aren't to save electricity. The laser burns so hot that you get a much better "spark" if you will. In other words, more complete combustion and therefore more power, less gas fumes in exhaust, and (I am no expert but I imagine) less CO as well.
        • by rfuilrez (1213562)

          In addition to what jittles said, you can time the firing of a laser a lot more precisely than you can a spark. And, you can do things like multiple bursts (aka sparks) for a more complete combustion cycle a lot more efficiently.

      • by cellocgw (617879)

        incoherent light?

        this is exactly the problem with a laser beam. Not having read TFA, I dunno whether the summary's "modulation" means a coherence-spoiler, but if it doesn't, the laser beam is going to be a lousy illuminator.
        Ooops, also not mentioned in summary: if , like current so-called white LEDs, this new headlamp uses a laser to stimulate a high-efficiency white phosphor, then we can all stop worrying: the emitted light will be incoherent.

    • by poity (465672)

      Because it ain't a "luxury" car if it drives on the same tech the plebes drives on.

    • by Fnord666 (889225)

      Laser light has significant disadvantages compared to the other kind. (what's the word for non-laser?) It may be less efficient to just spread several shades of light everywhere but it's kind of necessary to see everything.

      They won't be using the laser light directly. It will be passed through a secondary material to convert it into white light.

      Laser headlamps would be safe, BMW says, because the illumination leaving the headlamp is indirect. The blue laser beam is also converted by a fluorescent phosphor material into a pure white light - "pleasant to the eye," BMW says...

      The article did not indicate what that might do to the collimation though.

      • So, what is the phosphor life, and what does it do when the phosphor burns out? Does it get dimmer, or just let the laser straight through?
    • A laser that doesn't produce a coherent beam of light is called a light-emitting diode....

  • by roman_mir (125474) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @12:37PM (#37317104) Homepage Journal

    Beamers always looked nice, now with the optional tiny sharks inside the headlamps they'll be simply irresistible.

    What would PETA say?

  • Next time a moose runs out in the road in front of us we'll just have to switch to high beams and it will be a cloud of moose vapor.

    Though cleaning the car afterwards might be gross.

    • Moose-Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization? Sorry, one for the biochem geeks...
    • by jittles (1613415)
      You don't want to be starting an arms race with the moose population. You thought sharks with laser beams were bad? Just wait until the moose get their hands on some real lasers!
    • by djdanlib (732853)

      I now feel the uncontrollable urge to find some way to insert the phrase "moose vapor" into a conversation today. Thanks!

  • Now when it comes time to replace a head light, it will become a major spending decision!
  • The only car where the Pink Floyd music library is included as a feature; complete with laser light show.

  • why the hell are lasers for headlights the next logical step? i think everyone agrees that headlights all do their job adequately given the limitation of not being allowed to completely blind oncoming traffic. the next LOGICAL step (assuming we are trying move in the direction of eliminating visibility issues/unknown elements from nighttime driving) should be to have some kind of sonar/radar device that can detect and relay a warning to the driver...maybe by having a terminator-esque translucent LED scre

    • by bar-agent (698856)

      the next LOGICAL step (assuming we are trying move in the direction of eliminating visibility issues/unknown elements from nighttime driving) should be to have some kind of sonar/radar device that can detect and relay a warning to the driver

      Lasers could probably help with this...

      I was about to say "unless they run the beam through a diffuser and whitener like they've said they'll do." But even if the beam is turned white and spread around, if it stays in-phase in at least one frequency, maybe they can still

  • About the only advantage I see in this is the possible efficiency (which doesn't really make sense unless the car is electric). I mean, bright is bright. Screw "modulated for safety". If the point is it's brighter, then it's brighter at both ends. This just means that when they come over a hill, they can blind you from a mile away. We don't even need high beams anymore.

    Could they maybe tie this into a range finder or adaptive landscape mapping or something? I'd hate to see what their laser headlight would d

  • If they can tie the lights into a dection system for deer, that would be sweet; drop Bambi like a bad habit to prevent major-league crumplage.
  • This shows up on the next James Bond or MIssion Impossible flic.

    Laser Headlights, with booster to turn them into weapons grade headlights.

  • "modulated for safety"

    That sounds like it should be on a box of "star trek" brand condoms...

  • Not Laser headlights (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jklovanc (1603149) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @02:46PM (#37318878)

    Read this sentence from the last paragraph of the article; "Importantly, therefore, before the light from the tiny laser diodes is emitted onto the road, the originally bluish laser light beam is first of all converted by means of a fluorescent phosphor material inside the headlight into a pure white light which is very bright and pleasant to the eye." Therefore no lase light escapes the headlight. This is in effect laser stimulated florescence. The one number they miss in the article is what is the conversion ration between the light incoming to the phosphor and the light given off by the phosphor. It could be 100% but I don't know. After this conversion the light is probably no longer coherent and will disperse like a headlight should.

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