BMW Unveils Cutting-Edge Light Channel Next for Advanced Vehicle Lighting Testing


BMW Group has unveiled its state-of-the-art Light Channel Next facility, located in Unterschleißheim near Munich. This expansive and modern facility, constructed within a former parts warehouse, serves as one of the largest and most advanced testing grounds for headlights and exterior lighting in the world. The facility enables designers and developers to thoroughly analyze and optimize all aspects of vehicle lighting by simulating various scenarios on real models.

With the ability to replicate different substrates and ambient lighting conditions, the Light Channel Next offers realistic testing environments for any time of day or night. The primary focus within the new light channel is on integrating highly adaptive headlights that ensure safe illumination of the road and surroundings, leading to fatigue-free driving.

Beyond safety, vehicle lighting also plays a crucial role in enhancing aesthetics across all brands within the BMW Group. Striking daytime driving lights, such as the illuminated BMW kidney “Iconic Glow,” the distinctive rear lights of MINI with the Union Jack design, and the dynamic light carpet that adds a lighting effect to the vehicle’s entry area, are integral components of current models. Innovative light designs and unique lighting effects contribute to giving each BMW model a distinct and unmistakable appearance.

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While computer-aided simulations provide a solid foundation for developing new light systems, the BMW Group recognizes the essentiality of evaluating lighting directly on real vehicles. Despite significant advancements in virtual and mixed reality technologies, the direct assessment of light on physical vehicles remains indispensable for engineers and designers. The Light Channel Next facility addresses this need perfectly.

Spanning 132 meters in length and boasting a test surface of approximately 22 meters in width, the Light Channel Next is the BMW Group’s longest development tool. With nearly 3,000 square meters of available space, developers and designers have ample room to conduct their work. The facility includes a workshop dedicated to preparing prototypes for light tests. The completion of the Light Channel Next follows three years of construction, and its proximity to the BMW Group’s Research and Innovation Centre (FIZ) near Munich enhances collaboration and accessibility.

One of the key features of the new light channel is its diverse ground surfaces, offering four different conditions for analyzing newly developed light technologies and designs. The central area features an asphalt surface that has been artificially aged through a special grinding process to replicate road conditions accurately. This surface allows for evaluating the color and uniformity of static or variable low-beam headlight distributions. Additionally, developers can utilize footpaths or even coatings found in common underground car parks to assess BMW’s distinctive light carpets. The facility even includes an oiled parquet floor typically seen at vehicle presentations during trade fairs.

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To prevent unwanted reflections from walls and ceilings, the entire light channel is painted with a specially formulated light-absorbing matte black color. Light traps are strategically positioned on the walls to ensure the absorption of all light, except for the floor. The facility incorporates a test wall with a Lambertian radiation characteristic, measuring 18 meters wide and three meters high. This wall aids in measuring color fringes at the light/dark boundary of low-beam headlight distributions and allows for precise headlight tilt adjustment. Additionally, an 80-square-meter light sail is used to detect any undesirable stray light.

For evaluating signal lamps that remain active during the day, such as turn indicators or daytime driving lights, a daylight wall measuring ten meters wide and five meters high provides a large, well-lit background. This wall allows for variations in luminosity and color temperature, simulating daylight conditions at different times of the day. To ensure consistent positioning of test vehicles, models are automatically aligned along the longitudinal axis using a centering stand, increasing precision and saving valuable time.

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The Light Channel Next facility, as a crucial tool for developing new light concepts, is now operational. Its wide range of features and diverse applications will contribute to achieving

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