Audi says that its new A8 Matrix lights are comprised of 25 high-beam LEDs, clustered in groups of five paired with reflectors. Unlike traditional automatic high-beam setups, the Matrix array is so precise that it "blanks out light that would shine directly onto oncoming and preceding vehicles" while continuing to use full high-beam power on other sections of the road and shoulder not occupied by other vehicles. Further, the camera- and electronic brain-governed system can dim or extinguish LEDs as necessary to deal with traffic. The active system also differs from today's adaptive headlamps by not requiring servo motors to direct light, yet they can still function as cornering headlamps – ones that can predict a road's trajectory because they are linked with the car's GPS system. Interestingly, the system also works with Audi's optional night vision system. When the latter detects a pedestrian in the dark, it automatically flashes a batch of LEDs to put both the driver and pedestrian on notice about each others' presence.
Only one problem in all of this trick lighting business: they aren't legal here in the US, at least not yet. Audi and other automakers are currently petitioning the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, trying to sell the government agency on the technology's safety benefits. For the moment, Matrix headlamps are likely to remain forbidden fruit, but you can check them out and see what you might be missing in the video below. As for the 2015 A8, we're guessing it'll surface at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September.
Leading the way in lighting technology:
The new Audi Matrix LED headlights
New technology set to reach the market later this year
Individually controlled LEDs for high-precision lighting
Audi has been leading the way for many years with an array of innovations
Audi Matrix LED headlights
Audi is now building on its lead in the domain of lighting technology with a world first: The Audi Matrix LED headlights will make their debut on the new A8, which is appearing on the market at the end of 2013. Audi, the technology leader in this field, is thus opening a new chapter in automotive lighting technology.
Audi Matrix LED technology splits up the LED high-beam headlights into numerous individual, small diodes working in conjunction with lenses or reflectors connected in series. Managed by a responsive control unit, they are activated and deactivated or dimmed individually according to the situation. This means they always supply high-precision illumination and achieve the maximum possible light yield without needing a pivoting mechanism.
In the new Audi A8, each headlight comprises 25 high-beam light-emitting diodes, arranged in groups of five per reflector. When the light switch is set to "automatic" and the high-beam headlights are on, the system is activated from 30 km/h (18.64 mph) on highways and from 60 km/h (37.28 mph) on city streets. The Audi Matrix LED headlights produce a quality of light with a special crystalline sheen. By day, too, they have a very attractive and distinctive look, which is reinforced by the new appearance of the daytime running lights.
As soon the camera in the A8 detects oncoming vehicles, the Audi Matrix LED headlights dip the relevant sections of the high-beam headlights. The system operates with such precision that it blanks out light that would shine directly onto oncoming and preceding vehicles, but continues to cast the high beams with full power on all other zones between and beside them. The closer an approaching vehicle gets, the more LEDs are deactivated or dimmed. When there is no more oncoming traffic, the high-beam headlights then resume full power, including the sections that had previously been off. The light that the driver sees is always bright, homogeneous and much more effective than that produced by competitors' mechanical dipping systems.
Matrix LED technology offers fascinating potential in many different respects, in terms of the number of individual LEDs, their arrangement, and the size and design of the headlights. One of its safety functions in the Audi A8 involves providing what are known as marker lights: These team up with the optional night vision assistant to mark detected pedestrians. When it detects a person in the critical range in front of the car, individual LEDs flash at them rapidly three times in succession, picking out the pedestrian clearly from their surroundings and alerting both the pedestrian and the driver.
The light-emitting diodes of the Audi Matrix LED headlights also perform the cornering light function; they displace the emphasis of the beam in the direction of the bend. By calling on predictive route data supplied by the MMI navigation plus, they do so shortly before the steering needs to be turned. Another function in the new Audi A8 is the turn signal with dynamic display: The LEDs in the turn signals flash in blocks at 150 millisecond intervals in the direction that the driver intends to turn.
Audi leads the way in automotive lighting technology and the brand has repeatedly masterminded crucial advances over the years. Here are just the main world-leading innovations:
1994: second-generation xenon headlights in the Audi A8
2003: adaptive light in the Audi A8
2004: LED daytime running lights in the Audi A8 W12
2008: full-LED headlights in the Audi R8
2010: connectivity between the headlights and navigation data in the Audi A8
2011: homogeneous LED rear lights design in the Audi A6
2012: turn signal with dynamic display in the Audi R8
2013: full-LED headlights for the compact class
2013: EU validates LED technology from Audi as an eco-innovation, the first manufacturer to be certified for this technology
The plus points of Audi innovations include not just better light, but also more safety, high efficiency and attractive design. A wide range of customers can reap the benefits – the LED headlights, for example, are available from the compact A3 car line upward. Also the Le Mans sports cars of Audi – the Audi R18 e-tron has just retained the title at the 24 Hours of Le Mans – have been fitted with LED headlights for a number of years; on the straight, they illuminate the racetrack over a distance of about one kilometer (0.62 miles).
Audi intends to extend its lead step by step. The automotive lighting of the future will respond with even greater precision to the surroundings and interact with it in diverse ways. It will have all-electronic control and be even more attractive thanks to new dynamic functions.