Newswatch – Winners and losers in lighting the motorists’ path
The decision to switch off the lights is hardly going to help those companies striving to introduce LED street lighting in the UK. The move to turn lights off on lightly-used sections of the UK’s motorway network was one of the first ideas to emerge after the UK’s Coalition Government asked the public for money-saving ideas.
Switching the lights off is also being seen by Government and local authorities as having the added benefit of helping to cut carbon emissions which again hits the LED lighting sector below the belt given that the energy saving advantages of LED lighting are supposed to be one of the technology’s key selling points. After all what’s the need for energy saving LED lighting solutions if you are simply willing to let people drive in the dark?
Of course safety and motoring organizations are not keen to see the lights switched off and local people have managed to overturn some ‘lights out’ decisions after a wave of protests. For example, in Wales Powys Council has been forced to ditch its plans to save £225,000 a year by turning off more than half of its 1,400 lights off at night.
But the writing still seems to be on the wall to keep turning the lights off. The UK’s Highways Agency admits that already under half the 1,800 miles of motorway in England are lit. Although protecting major capital projects, the UK’s Department for Transport, has been keen to cut running costs by turning off motorway lights and has been testing switch-offs on parts of the M2, M4, M5 and M27.
Driving in the dark is not just a UK phenomenon. In the Netherlands this month ‘Glow in the dark’ road markings will be trialled on a 500m stretch of highway.
The paint contains a ‘photo-luminising’ powder that charges up in the daytime and slowly releases a green glow at night which the paint’s advocates claim means there will be no need for streetlights. Dutch civil engineering company Heijmans is working on the project and will enable for the first time the ‘glowing lines’ technology to be piloted on the N329 road in Oss, approximately 100km south east of Amsterdam.
Once the paint has absorbed daylight it is capable of glowing for up to eight hours in the dark. The paint is being promoted as "a sustainable alternative to places where no conventional lighting is present". The paint’s development team is also planning to develop weather symbols that appeared on the road once the temperature has reached a certain level. A temperature-sensitive paint mixture could, for example, be used to create giant snow flake-shaped symbols on the tarmac to warn users that the road may be icy.
The UK Highways Agency has admitted it was watching the trial in the Netherlands with interest but still seems to remain to be convinced.
One of the ironies of the switching off of motorway lighting is that it places more pressure on car designers to develop cars with even better lighting capabilities and that could be provide a chink of light to the more innovative LED lighting manufacturers focusing on the automotive sector.
So it is timely to realize that companies like Osram have started to see its LED innovation skills begin to pay dividends with its laser LED technology, which the company has supplied for the new BMW i8 and other high-end models. Thanks to the technology’s high luminance, which is greater than that of any other light source available today, headlamps can be made even smaller than they are already. At the same time, high beam from a laser module offers the greatest beam range and therefore better visibility for the driver and greater road safety.
This week Osram followed up its BMW design win by revealing the company would be supplying a complete LED forward lighting solution for the 2015 model of the Ford F-150 pickup truck. The F-150 is expected to become the biggest selling pickup truck in the USA and the new model’s innovative lighting system will comprise dipped beam and high beam, turn indicators, parking light and control module.
Returning to the future prospects of LED lighting for motorways and major road systems perhaps the LED lighting industry needs to raise and vary its game. Energy saving is obviously now not going to be the be all and end all of any purchasing decision. Perhaps the value added ‘smart’ control capabilities offered by LED technologies need to be pushed harder to make the LED an effective ‘smart’ node for future traffic management solutions.
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