BMW Group has put a new light channel into operation at its Research and Innovation Center in Munich, Germany. The light channel is a state-of-the-art facility for testing headlights and exterior lighting on vehicles from BMW, MINI, Rolls-Royce, and BMW Motorrad.
The Light Channel Next project is not just a dark tunnel with some lamps. It is a sophisticated system that can simulate various lighting conditions and scenarios, such as night driving, fog, rain, snow, and glare. The light channel can also create different types of roads and traffic situations, such as urban streets, highways, and intersections.
The light channel is part of BMW Group's Light Channel Next project, which aims to develop innovative lighting technologies and solutions for the future of mobility. The project involves more than 100 engineers, designers, and technicians from various disciplines and departments.
BMW Group says lighting is a key element of vehicle design and aesthetics and an important factor for safety, comfort, and functionality. Lighting can also enhance the driving experience and convey emotions and information to drivers and other road users.
How does the Light Channel Next project work?
The Light Channel Next project is a 328-foot-long (100-meter-long) tunnel that can be divided into two sections by a movable wall. The first section tests static lighting functions, such as low beam, high beam, cornering lights, and daytime running lights. The second section is used for testing dynamic lighting functions, such as adaptive headlights, matrix beam, laser light, and OLED technology.
The light channel has a total of 156 LED panels on the walls, ceiling, and floor that can create various lighting scenarios. The LED panels have a resolution of 60 pixels per square meter and can produce up to 10,000 candela per square meter of brightness. The LED panels are controlled by a central computer that can adjust each pixel's brightness, color, and position.
The light channel also has a turntable that can rotate the vehicle 360 degrees, allowing the engineers to test the lighting from different angles and directions. The turntable has a diameter of 23 feet (7 meters) and can accommodate vehicles up to 11 feet (3.4 meters) wide and 6.6 feet (2 meters) high.
The light channel is equipped with various sensors and cameras that can measure the luminous intensity, color temperature, beam pattern, and distribution of the vehicle's lighting. The data is then analyzed by software that can compare the results with legal requirements and customer expectations.
What are the benefits of the Light Channel Next project?
BMW Group says that the Light Channel Next project offers several advantages over conventional methods of testing headlights and exterior lighting. For example:
- The light channel can simulate realistic lighting conditions and scenarios that are difficult or impossible to reproduce in real life or in other test facilities.
- The light channel can test the lighting functions in a controlled and reproducible environment, ensuring consistent and accurate results.
- The light channel can test the lighting functions in a short time, reducing the development cycle and costs.
- The light channel can test the lighting functions in a confidential and secure manner, protecting the intellectual property and competitive edge of BMW Group.
BMW Group says the Light Channel Next project is a tool for testing existing lighting functions and a platform for developing new ones. The company says that it is constantly working on innovative lighting technologies and solutions that will meet the needs and demands of future mobility.
For example, BMW Group is exploring how lighting can be used to communicate with other road users, such as pedestrians, cyclists, and autonomous vehicles. The company also looks into how lighting can be personalized and customized according to the driver's preferences and mood.
BMW Group says that it is committed to enhancing its leadership position in automotive lighting by investing in research and development. The company says that it spends about $6 billion (5 billion euros) annually on R&D activities across its brands.
The company says that its Light Channel Next project is one of its strategic initiatives to shape the future of mobility with innovative technologies and solutions. The company says that it aims to create vehicles that are safe, comfortable, functional but also emotional, and intelligent.
How does BMW Group compare with other automakers?
BMW Group is not the only automaker investing in advanced lighting technologies and solutions. Other major players in the industry are also developing their own capabilities and facilities for testing headlights and exterior lighting.
- Audi has a light tunnel at its Ingolstadt plant in Germany that can simulate various weather conditions and traffic situations. Audi says it tests about 1,000 vehicles annually in its light tunnel.
- Mercedes-Benz has a light tunnel at its Sindelfingen plant in Germany that can create different types of roads and landscapes. Mercedes-Benz says it tests about 500 vehicles annually in its light tunnel.
- Toyota has a light tunnel at its Higashi-Fuji Technical Center in Japan that can reproduce various natural phenomena such as sunrise, sunset, moonlight, and starlight. Toyota says it tests about 300 vehicles annually in its light tunnel.
However, BMW Group claims its new light channel is unique in size, flexibility, and functionality. The company says that its light channel is one of the world's largest and most advanced facilities.
BMW Group says that its new light channel reflects its vision of creating vehicles that are machines and companions for people. The company says that its new light channel will help it achieve this vision by developing lighting technologies and solutions to make driving safer, more comfortable, and more enjoyable.