Car makers to use intelligent ambient lighting to create new functions – and a new feeling – inside the cabin

Cars are becoming ever more intelligent devices. Equipped with multiple arrays of sensors, and featuring advanced processors and AI software that can ‘think’ like a driver, tomorrow’s car will manage driving and other operations in response to cues from its environment, while providing more choices of information, entertainment and communication to all the occupants. 

The increasing sophistication of a vehicle’s technology is prompting manufacturers to rethink the form and function of the cabin. Inside the vehicle, there is intelligence everywhere: in new, larger central information displays, in all-digital instrument clusters, and in heads-up displays.  And the next frontier for intelligence in the cabin? Intelligent ambient lighting. 

Innovative design concepts under development elevate the function of ambient lighting from mere static illumination to a dynamic, animated optical effect, providing warnings, communication, guidance for interaction, and aesthetic enhancement. And OSIRE® intelligent LED technology developed by ams OSRAM is making this new vision of ambient lighting possible. 


Dynamic interior lighting changes color, brightness, and shape

The development of the new OSIRE® E3731i LED results from the company’s close association with automotive equipment manufacturers, and with the car makers themselves. Our deep understanding of their requirements enables us to create new technology that delivers exceptional value both to our customers in the automotive industry, and to our customers’ customers – the drivers and passengers of next-generation vehicles. 
In the case of the new approach to cabin design, car makers want to transform the experience of mobility, treating the car not so much as a mode of transport, but as the ‘third living space’ after the home and workplace. In the future, the cabin should give car users as much comfort, convenience and enjoyment as they get at home. 

Dynamic, intelligently controlled ambient lighting has a crucial role to play in this transformation. Unlike today’s single-color, static cabin lights, the intelligent ambient lighting of the future can ‘move’ with animation effects, change color, and increase or decrease in intensity either quickly, like a strobe light, or slowly, for instance to produce ‘breathing’ effects. 

Car makers can use these new intelligent lighting capabilities in various ways

Aesthetic enhancement

For aesthetic enhancement, for instance to create a calming or energized atmosphere, or to accentuate a feature such as a display screen.


To provide warnings

To provide warnings – for instance, a dynamic light stripe at the top of the door panel and around the wing mirror can alert a passenger when a camera detects danger, such as a cyclist in the path of the opening door.


For communication

For communication – a dynamic blue light stripe at the base of the windscreen can indicate navigation guidance to the driver, or in green could indicate the battery’s state of charge.


For interaction

For interaction – surfaces equipped with touch-sensing capability can be illuminated with dynamic colored symbols to indicate the action that the user can take, such as a green phone symbol to accept an incoming call, changing to red to end the call.


Innovative technology brings intelligence to light

This enticing vision of the cabin of the future excited our imagination. For decades, ams OSRAM has been pioneering new technology for automotive lighting. We love to create cool optical technology that brings to life ideas that were once impossible. 

In doing this, we benefit from our deep knowledge of the challenges that car makers and their suppliers face. The new use cases for intelligent ambient lighting called for a new type of LED: 

  • Dynamic color and intensity effects need an RGB LED that responds fast to high-frequency control signals
  • For easy integration with common automotive electronics architectures, the LED must be controllable by any microcontroller over a standard serial interface
  • High quality of light is an essential feature, so arrays of LEDs must achieve consistent color and brightness uniformity, no matter how hot or cold the temperature 

The OSIRE® E3731i  (the i stands for ‘intelligent’) was the solution for this demanding set of requirements. This new device draws on the unique breadth of ams OSRAM’s capabilities: optical chip technology, digital and mixed-signal circuit design, and semiconductor packaging. In the E3731i, we have been able to combine highly efficient red, green and blue LED chips with a digital IC (which includes memory, a serial communications block, and a temperature sensor) in a single, compact package. 
Alongside the introduction of the E3731i, we have created a new Open System Protocol (OSP), a ‘language’ that enables compatible devices such as LEDs, microcontrollers and sensors to talk to each other over a standard serial bus. The OSP is free for any manufacturer to use, helping to foster a vibrant ecosystem of products and suppliers to support car manufacturers’ visions for the future of ambient lighting. 

Smart and connected – the intelligent LED for the cabin of the future

The features of the E3731i are perfectly in tune with the requirements of the new automotive ambient lighting. As many as 1,000 E3731i LEDs daisy-chained together can be controlled by a single microcontroller. The OSP command set enables the microcontroller to produce a wide range of dynamic lighting effects, including color changes and sequential switching, enabling for instance a linear array below the windshield to point left or right, or in the door panel to flash a signal warning of the approach of a cyclist. 

An interior lighting scheme consisting of thousands of E3731i LEDs can also maintain perfect uniformity of color and intensity thanks to the on-chip memory (which saves optical calibration data programmed in at the factory) and temperature sensor (enabling temperature compensation for color shifts). 

The product of years of engineering development, the OSIRE® E3731i LED points the way forward for new automotive cabin designs, helping create an ambience for driver and passengers that feels comfortable as well as functional, smart as well as safe – a testament to the unique optical and electronics capabilities that ams OSRAM can offer.