Laser light is a completely different style of lighting than the artificial lighting we typically use today. Lasers are monochromatic, which means the light waves are all the same length. This means that a headlight can have a beam one-thousand times brighter than an LED bulb but only use half the energy to power it. In simple terms, lasers lights save fuel.
With the development of BMW’s laser headlights, we will see the difference that laser light makes. Normal LED lights generate about 100 lumens of light. To put that in perspective, that is close to the same light you get when using a tactical flashlight like the ones you can find at your local sporting goods store. Laser lights, on the other hand, produce 170 lumens while consuming less power. That’s a huge difference, particularly when power consumption is such big factor in cars today.
Another added benefit of the technology is the space it will save inside the car. LED headlights are 100 times larger than a laser diode, so laser lighting will offer more room for better styling and could possibly lead to reducing the size of headlights. However, BMW currently has no plans for reducing the surface area of their headlights.
You’re probably thinking, “Great, another annoying car with super bright lights at night.” BMW realizes that it is a potential safety issue and has figured out a way of tempering the bright light so that everyone passing the laser headlights won’t see spots. The laser is directed through a fluorescent phosphor material that changes the blue beam into a pure white light that is pleasant on the eyes. BMW also plans to incorporate their Anti-Dazzle High Beam Assist and Adaptive Headlights to make sure the experience for the driver and the other drivers on the road is a good one. That’s a lofty goal, and I have my doubts as to whether they will achieve it, but we will see.
We will get our first glimpse of the laser headlights in the i8 Concept car. With the release date set for 2013, it will be a while before we start seeing them out on the roads. Better lighting will be a huge advantage while driving at night, but it seems like they could put that R&D effort into something a bit more practical.
My suggestion is focusing on cars that run purely on garbage like the upgraded DeLorean from Back to the Future Part II, thus solving the problem of over filling landfills and having a car that looks cool, all at the same time. I guess I will have to wait till 2015.