19 Jul 2022
When it comes to lights, Audi shines bright. Through the years, Audi has been pushing the envelope on light innovation, injecting a harmonious symphony of aesthetics, safety, design, and technology into its lighting.
As further testament to this, Audi became the first automobile manufacturer to be awarded the eco-innovation certificate of the European Union in 2013 for its use of LED technology. On top of that, Audi is currently the only manufacturer to offer digital OLED innovation in cars.
Audi views lights as something more than just mere functional parts of a car. The lights on Audis have a life of their own, giving these cars distinct exterior designs and character with headlights and taillights that share the stage with its overall visual appearance.
Still in the dark? We shine the spotlight on the brand’s latest light innovations as seen on various Audi models.
Headlights are arguably one of the most outstanding and important design features of any car, and the Audi e-tron GT and its RS counterpart feature Audi’s latest laser light technology. For the Audi e-tron GT, matrix LED headlights and laser lights are optional items, while they are standard equipment in the RS model.
The Audi laser light works hand in hand with matrix LED headlights, extending the high beam to twice the range. With this configuration, each headlight is outfitted with a small laser module which expands the spotlight range to 600 metres. In addition, a laser spot is activated when the car is moving at 70 km/h or higher, enhancing road visibility and safety. Similar to the Matrix LED, the laser spot adjusts to various situations to avoid blinding other road users while still providing maximum illumination. For example, when the camera (mounted on the windshield) detects other cars within range, the laser spot dims automatically.
The first Audi equipped with full LED lights was the first-generation Audi R8, and subsequently, the first Audi with laser lights was the Audi R8 LMX in 2014. Dynamic lighting schemes continue to be a mainstay through all of Audi’s light offerings from LED, matrix LED, to matrix LED with Audi laser light, giving customers dynamic turn signals as well as dynamic lighting effects with special leaving and coming home light sequences.
This lighting technology is available as an optional item in the Audi e-tron and the new Audi A8. DMD, which stands for digital micromirror device, is the new technology behind the digitisation of Matrix LED headlights. Each headlight has 1.3 million micromirrors that break down the light into tiny pixels, allowing it to be controlled with maximum precision. One new function that this technology makes possible is lane and orientation lights for highways. The orientation light helps drivers stay in their lane even at road construction sites.
The bright lights you see at the end of the tunnel may well be Audi’s digital OLED rear lights which have elevated the taillight game since it debuted in 2020. Its latest digital version comes as standard equipment in the Audi A8 L but was first introduced in the Audi Q5, when it gave customers a taste of having options for their car’s taillight signature.
The fascination with OLEDs (or organic light-emitting diodes) stems from their practical application and flexibility. The brightness of OLEDs is completely adjustable and they have very high contrast. They also don’t require additional parts like reflectors and optical fibres, greatly reducing installation depth from 20 or 30 millimetres (like conventional LEDs) to just one millimetre. Simply put, they are effective, efficient, lightweight, flat, and best of all, they give the great minds at Audi greater design freedom, and customers more light signatures and sequences to choose from.
Digital OLEDs, quite literally, raise the lumens by turning taillights into a light display while improving safety on the road. They give more room for innovation in design, personalisation and communication. For example, the digital OLEDs on Audis have proximity indications and sensors that detect external situations, such as other cars or people on bicycles or scooters, and respond by either dimming or amping up the brightness to make the car more noticeable.
When you strip down a car’s headlights to its basic functions, its primary purpose is to illuminate the road ahead. Not only do the lights on an Audi do the job, they give much more. Take for example the marking light that comes optionally with the matrix LED headlights on models like the Audi RS e-tron GT.
This light function was designed to recognise pedestrians near or on the road in the dark. The night vision assistant draws from the car’s thermal imaging camera which uses heat signatures from people or animals that fall within the camera’s 24-degree field of view. Once detected, the marking light will shine a focus light (red by default, but adjustable) on the pedestrian and emit warning sounds to alert both driver and pedestrian.
Audi is working on evolving digital OLEDs from two-dimensional to three-dimensional — a feat that the brand has already achieved in the Audi e-tron GT’s three-dimensional headlights. Not only does this give the rear lights more form, it also enhances the car’s ability to ‘talk’ better to the external environment by allowing the car to illuminate not just the rear but the sides as well. This three-dimensional form also gives a larger usable area for personalisation, configuration and functionality.
Among other light innovations that are in the pipeline are digital light projections from the car blinkers to the ground. Here, symbols indicating directions and warnings add a more detailed element to communication between the car and its surroundings.
As Cesar Muntada, Head of Light Design at Audi AG, says, “Light technology and light design are inseparable at Audi. Light is a visible expression of ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’. We give the car an unmistakable face and sharpen the character of the model and the brand. An Audi must be recognisable at night at the first glance, both from close up and from a distance. So, we stick to a principle that guarantees recognition, but also leaves the space necessary for the character of the particular car.”