Lights: The first ever car without a single light bulb

May 15, 2013
100 years or so after the introduction of electric lighting in motor vehicles, Mercedes-Benz is now making a complete switch to LED technology – the new S-Class is 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 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 further underlining its pioneering role in the field of lighting technology: the new S-Class does not have a single light bulb on board. Almost 500 LEDs assume the task of illuminating the road, vehicle, interior and luggage compartment. Depending on equipment, these are:
  • Headlamps: each with up to 56 LEDs
  • Tail lights: each with up to 35 LEDs (plus 4 for the rear fog lamp)
  • Interior (including ambient lighting): approx. 300 LEDs
"With its long life and a colour temperature resembling daylight, LED technology already had a great deal in its favour," remarks Prof. Thomas Weber, Member of the Daimler Board of Management responsible for Group Research and Head of Development, Mercedes-Benz Cars. "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 0.05 litres of 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, Adaptive Highbeam Assist Plus allows the high-beam headlamps to be kept on permanently while driving by masking out any 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.
The 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 main-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 high beam and highly reflective signs at the side of the road is also detected and eliminated by dimming the headlamps accordingly.
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 the brightness of the environment (day/night).
If the Mercedes driver presses the brake pedal while stopped at traffic lights at night, 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 dark 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 particularly relevant situations (darkness, unlit roads at speeds over 60 km/h). Any pedestrians or animals detected ahead are highlighted in colour in this image.
In such situations 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. Animals are purposely not flashed since their reaction to light is unpredictable. Manual cut-in of the grey-scale image is possible at any time; pedestrian and animal detection and the corresponding highlighting now also are available in urban areas during darkness (illuminated roads, speed less than 60 km/h) if the greyscale image is activated permanently.
An additional (long-range) 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 (short-range) 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 single button.
Good vision also is ensured by MAGIC VISION CONTROL. The system cleans the windscreen without the splash of water that usually briefly disrupts the driver’s field of view in the case of conventional windscreen washing systems. With MAGIC VISION CONTROL, the fluid is supplied to the windscreen by means of water guides integrated on both sides along the wiper blade and minute spraying holes. This Mercedes-Benz innovation had its world premiere last year in the Mercedes-Benz SL and has been augmented by speed-sensitive control for the S-Class.