In the Mercedes Future-Truck, one can see by the front lighting, in which mode it is being moved and, already in production series, the new Mini Clubman projects its logo from the exterior mirror onto the road surface. These are all statements in light form, which no longer have anything to do with the primary task of illuminating. In the past and particularly in the USA, they even had under-floor lighting.
Audi has taken it one step further with the Organic Light Ewithting Diode technology. In contrast to the point shaped ray given out by LEDs, OLED produces a particularly even light surface. These lights don't throw any shadows and need no reflectors. As the above pictures show, they can be well integrated into the surface of the car, lighting technology and design are moving even closer to each other.
An OLED-unit is made up of two electrodes, at least one of them is transparent. In addition, there are thin layers of semi-conductor material with a thickness of less than one thousandth of a millimetre. A low amount of DC-voltage, as with LEDs, causes the layers to light up. The colours are decided by the build-up of the molecules during the manufacturing of the layers.
Thus basically, incredibly thin lighting units e.g., in the rear are possible. At the moment however, the required light-density is not achieved. Indeed, should one stick to the depth of today's lighting units, one can shape the light-surfaces, also in the third dimension. There are of course, many additional possibilities as far as movement is concerned (see video 2).
If the necessary brightness for the road is achieved, the light-source can be split up into almost pixel-size areas and can be controlled in milliseconds, to light up only precisely defined surfaces. This could more than likely be done using lasers and hundreds of thousands of individually controllable micro-reflectors, depending on the requirements and the possibilities, even for several hundred metres ahead.
The best example is shown in the first video, where footprints are projected onto the road, which indicate to the pedestrian that he/she can now cross. You will see, that the pedestrian is also warned that there is approaching traffic. This subject will certainly accompany us in the future. What the possibilities of this technology for the interior of the car and the operational elements will be, well, for the time being we'll leave that to your imagination. 07/15