Modern automobiles contain various mechatronical components to support the task of driving. To enhance driver vision and driving safety at night time, advanced lighting systems, such as a predictive advanced front lighting system (PAFS) enhance automotive lighting by swiveling the headlights horizontally into approaching curves on a winding road. In addition to this, basic leveling light systems tilt the headlights vertically, in order to adjust to the vehicle chassis pitch due to the vehicle load or suspension effects based on the vehicle dynamics from driving on a rough road. More advanced leveling systems even account for the vertical course of an undulating road using GPS-data to locate the vehicle’s position plus digital map data to predict the vertical course of the road in front of the vehicle. That way, the headlights follow the road curvature and illuminate the road ahead of the vehicle without glaring oncoming traffic. In order to design, evaluate, and optimize the control algorithm within the electronic control unit (ECU) of the leveling light system, various control parameter values need to be adjusted and fine-tuned to ensure an optimal response of the system to the current road scenario. For this task, numerous time-consuming and costly test drives at night are necessary. This paper proposes to use a Virtual Reality-based night driving simulator as tool to simulate and evaluate an advanced leveling light system. The PC-based night drive simulator visualizes the complex beam patterns of automotive headlights in high detail and in real-time. The user drives a simulated vehicle over a virtual test track at night, while the vehicle motion directly affects the lighting direction of headlights. Thus, the effect of the vehicle dynamics on the lighting can be evaluated directly in the simulator. The system is connected to the control algorithm of the advanced leveling light system, which controls the headlights tilting angle. This provides a close-to-reality simulation of the advanced leveling light system during a simulated drive at night. That way, within the virtual prototyping process of the advanced leveling light system, good combinations of control parameter values can be indentified, based on virtual test drives in the night driving simulator, and the number of real test drives can be reduced significantly. Promising combinations of the control parameter values then can be validated during a real test drive a night.

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