The headlight looks almost baroque, as if from a classic car: oval shape, very wide, very low. And yet modern, not least because it has no bulbs, but instead small rectangular dots that are the source of light in the interior. What is it that Dr Gunnar Koether, Head of Lighting and Vision at Volkswagen, is holding in his hands? “This,” he says, “is the first LED headlight from Volkswagen, built in 2005.”
An artefact, then, both historic and futuristic. Historic because it comes to us from the early years of working with this light technology. Even back then, it was clear to engineers like Koether that LEDs – the acronym stands for “light-emitting diodes” – held great appeal for use in cars. LED technology is more energy-efficient than halogen and xenon, and for less energy consumption you get a more variable and more designable light. Unlike with its predecessor technologies, the illumination does not emit from a single source that is directed and distributed by reflectors and lenses.