When we meet a person we don't know, the first thing we usually do is look into their eyes. And a car's eyes are its lights. What do headlights have to go through before they go out on the road? And before they even reach the production line? Come and see the unique simulated night driving laboratory in ŠKODA AUTO with us.
See and be seen – that's the basic rule of safe driving. The majority of people perceive driving at night, in the rain or in other adverse weather conditions as tiring. There is also a greater risk of an accident. That is why extraordinary attention is devoted to headlights when designing a new car.
Even the development of a seemingly obvious object such as headlights can be an exciting challenge. On the basis of proposals from designers in the form of sketches or 3D data, developer must design and adapt the lights to the given new model. The headlights must not only fulfil an aesthetic function, i.e. look good; they must also be manufacturable at a reasonable cost, and fully functional. Thus, both virtual and physical models, on which work is being done and on which other development workers comment, alternate during development.
An interesting tool which the developers in ŠKODA AUTO in Mladá Boleslav have at their disposal is a simulated night driving unique laboratory.
“It is the only laboratory of its kind in the entire Volkswagen concern. Our employees thus have a unique opportunity to test the new model's lights even before tests on the prototype,” says Petr Kristl, Head of Lighting Development at ŠKODA AUTO.
The specialist who tests the headlights may be sitting in a laboratory, but they are in a real car interior with their hands on the steering wheel and feet on the pedals, and they see simulated static or dynamic night driving scenes on a projection wall in front of them. Three powerful single-chip DLP projectors take care of the projection.
The tests involve the evaluation of the light spot's standard properties, such as width, lighting distance and homogeneity. However, mathematical models also enable the monitoring of the MATRIX high beam's masking function, for example. This is the latest type of headlight, which can change the intensity and width of the light according to other cars. By switching off individual LED chips, it prevents drivers of oncoming vehicles from being blinded, even if the high beams are constantly switched on.
“Blinding is a suitable example for illustrating the idea of Virtual Night Driving,” says Petr Kristl. “The assessor not only records a situation where they blinded an oncoming object; they can also repeat the scene, and monitor the level of the set measure. The simulator also enables the evaluation of the degree by which your own headlights blind you, for example when reflected from large traffic signs and signals, and lots of other useful values.”
The trend today is the maximum deployment of LED technology. It's gradually appearing in all ŠKODA model series. The main advantage of LED lights is significantly better light output than from halogen lights. Not only do they shine further, but their colour is closer to daylight. Their tone is not yellowish, but actually white. That's more pleasant for the eyes, which do not become as tired, which in turn makes the drive safer. Apart from this, LED lights also have a lifespan several times longer than that of halogen or xenon lights.
Today, LED technology is used by all ŠKODA models, and not only for the daytime lighting function. The so-called “full LED headlight,” i.e. low beams, high beams and indicators all made from these diodes, is offered in the OCTAVIA, KAROQ, KODIAQ, SCALA, KAMIQ and SUPERB models. The latest, post-facelift version of the last model boasts the afore-mentioned top-class full-LED Matrix headlights.