ZKW uses rFpro to develop next-generation headlights

The Tier 1 supplier aims to reduce real-world testing of developmental headlights on public roads by more than 50%

New approach could save millions of euros in testing and development costs

Advances hardware design and control software before a prototype vehicle exists

Premium lighting systems supplier ZKW is now using rFpro simulation software to develop all its headlight products. rFpro offers the industry’s most advanced and immersive simulation solution for dynamic headlight development.

“Although headlights are becoming more complex OEMs are requiring a reduction in lead times, rFpro is enabling us to achieve this,” said Matthäus Artmann, Manager Electronics Engineering Pre- and Module Development at ZKW. “It can take several millions of euros and up to 18 months to develop a new headlight, with drivers spending months testing on public roads. Through the use of rFpro, we are aiming to reduce the requirement for real-world test driving by more than 50%.”

Dynamic, real-time headlight simulation reduces the requirement for testing on public roads, which is costly, conducted at unsociable hours and is a risk to engineers and other road users. A simulation-led approach enables engineers to swiftly assess numerous lighting profiles and optimise the shape, orientation and intensity of light.

“Headlight technology is advancing rapidly and the development and validation process becoming more complex as a result,” said Josh Wreford, Automotive Sales Manager at rFpro. “Our highly-accurate dynamic simulation software enables both the hardware design and control strategy to be optimised before a prototype vehicle exists. This significantly reduces the time and cost of developing headlights.”

The combination of rFpro’s high fidelity road surface modelling, Terrain Server, and lighting defined by industry-standard IES and RGB profiles, creates a uniquely accurate virtual environment. The dynamic motions of the vehicle in pitch, roll and yaw create a faithful representation of the headlight’s output.

“rFpro’s vehicle dynamics-grade road surface, physically accurate digital twins and highly detailed light modelling make it the most advanced simulation software on the market,” continued Wreford. “This level of detail enables a significant reduction in real-world driving, which is important because Tier 1 suppliers have limited access to the vehicle manufacturer’s prototypes but do have 24/7 access to the virtual vehicle model.”

Smart headlights are more complex than traditional headlights and require integration with vehicle systems, such as ADAS. In rFpro, the vehicle sensors that view the road ahead can be modelled and their inputs fed into the smart headlight control system. This means the full system feedback cycle can be simulated, developed and validated virtually, all before the first physical prototype is produced.

The simulation of headlights and other artificial lights is critical to the development of ADAS and autonomous vehicle technologies. They are the major source of illumination in low-natural light situations or at night-time, which the ADAS and AV systems need to accurately perceive. rFpro’s simulation is visually detailed and physically accurate, enabling engineers to analyse the raw light values and colour banding that the headlights produce.

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