BMW’s Latest Laser Headlights are not Death Rays and Will Work Great in Cars
Automotive headlights have gone a long way from being simple round or rectangular sealed beams to help you see at night. Technology has seen the progress from incandescents and halogens to HIDs and LED, and now, lasers. Although the term sounds like a high-tech weaponry and may be better suited for futuristic warfare, aka the Death Star, it may be a bit deceptive. Laser is the currently the latest in hyped headlight designs, and they do not act like death rays on wheels but are much closer to the term laser-powered headlights.
At first look, it seems that the new BMW i8 has taken a time warp from the future. The production version of the hybrid sports car was announced by the German automaker at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show and stole it by showing off its sleek aerodynamic curves, efficient and dynamic engine, and its high-tech parts, most notably the laser light. Laser light is usually pictured as a focused beam that manifests as a tiny red dot used for presentations and for teasing your cat with. It is also notioned to be dangerous if you will look directly into laser light because it will damage your eye’s retina. BMW most certainly does not want that to happen. They plan to install first on the i8 as an added option. The way that BMW laser headlights will work is aiming three blue-laser diodes at the back of the light assembly into a set of mirrors, which reverses the light and sends it through a lens full of yellow phosphorus. Phosphorus is a chemical that can emit light when excited, and yellow phosphorus in particular, when blasted by blue laser light, radiates a brilliant white light. This white light is harnessed then bounced off reflectors, diffused and shines out the headlight housing forward.
Laser light headlights can be a thousand times brighter than the current LED ones and consume two-thirds or even half the power. It is also the closest color temperature to natural daylight- Natural daylight is about 6500 Kelvin, while laser lights are between 5500 and 6000 Kelvin. The distance is another factor that was improved. LED low beams can shine out 100 meters out front, while the LED high beams can get out up to 300 meters. The laser light doubled the distance at an impressive 600 meters. The overall unit size is much smaller than LED configurations of today and provides greater allowance for packaging flexibility and styling for future cars. Safety is another major concern, but BMW has already taken the steps to ensure it will not be harmful or hazardous. The laser emitted from the headlights is not coherent laser light and is completely safe to look at. In instances where the laser emitters may point past the lens and mirrors the system would simply shut down automatically to prevent accidents. Hacker attempts may be another hazard in today’s world, and any enterprising car hacker may program, remove or alter the safety components to make the laser light shoot a true laser beam. Still, looking at it in a more positive light, a laser headlight system that casts a beam of light so well with so little power is a major advancement in road safety and accident prevention, and the future looks pretty bright.