Do LEDs really create a yacht rock oasis in the auto cabin of the future?

Aug. 14, 2020
MAURY WRIGHT vicariously experiences luxury automotive life, giving us a teaser of the ultra-slick application of LEDs in a new Mercedes.

We write about LED lighting in automotive applications fairly regularly. Going back almost a decade, some auto manufacturers adopted LEDs in forward- and rear-facing exterior applications due to the energy efficiency and size of the source. The most notable announcement was the original Audi Matrix headlamp in 2013 with adaptive drive beam technology. But we have also mentioned interior applications on a regular basis and the potential for LED lighting to reimagine the interior cabin experience. Well, one auto-centric magazine says that dynamic LED lighting in a new Mercedes will deliver a “glowing yacht rock oasis.”

Now, unfortunately, I won’t be driving a 2021 S-Class Mercedes Benz barring unlikely success in the lottery. But after reading the article on the vehicle cabin lighting on The Drive website, maybe I’ll make a lottery investment this weekend. The dynamic cabin lighting sure looks cool. The article says that there are 250 LEDs spaced around the interior of the cabin and that they are ten times brighter than the LEDs the auto manufacturer had used previously.

I suspect there are really far more LEDs in play inside the new Mercedes, although I wouldn’t expect the editor for such an auto magazine to grasp the subtlety of the situation. I would surmise that there are 250 RGB (red, green, blue) LED nodes connected on some sort of a network. Each LED node would have a minimum of three LED chips and perhaps some multiple of three. I don’t know the details of the Mercedes implementation, but it could use the ISELED standard developed by Inova and now supported by more than 20 companies.

Still, I really didn’t decide to mention this article because of the wow factor, although it is wow! Rather, it’s the fact that Mercedes is touting the lighting for health and wellbeing aspects of the solid-state lighting (SSL) system. Now, until we truly have autonomous vehicles, we really don’t need an in-cabin “relax” setting, although Mercedes has apparently included it. More importantly, the system also has an invigorating setting. I’m guessing that setting is heavily based on blue emission. And human circadian system be damned, it could be important for staying alert on a late-night drive.

The vehicle also has a collision warning system. Such a looming event will trigger an audible warning but also an animated progression of red LED lighting to accompany the audible warning. The LEDs are presumably bright enough to catch the driver’s attention even in daylight.

LEDs will become an even bigger factor as we move toward autonomous vehicles. We published a contributed article earlier this year that discussed the many ways in which LEDs will come to play in an autonomous application.

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