Light bulb moments
A pioneer of automotive lighting technology, Audi continues to light the way.
Automotive lighting continues to evolve at an incredible pace and Audi remains very much at the forefront, developing new and illuminating technologies for the future.
11 January, 2021
The evolution from halogen light to xenon headlights to LED technology in cars took less than two decades
Few elements in automotive engineering and design have both the technological and aesthetic significance as lighting. Vitally important from a safety and practical viewpoint, automotive lighting, particular the way Audi does it, also represents a visual element to the vehicle’s design. They are quite literally the ‘eyes of the vehicle’ and for years, Audi has very much been at the forefront of the technological development, pushing the limits or lighting technologies as well as creating distinctive lighting signatures for its vehicles.
The evolution from halogen light to xenon headlights to LED technology in cars took less than two decades, and these milestone lighting technologies provided customers with safer, more functional vehicles as well as a distinctive style. Indeed, Audi lighting has been defining the face of the brand’s models in every era as well as extending range and thus everyday usability.
While these technical developments continue at tremendous speed, Audi is also looking at innovative ways of using automotive light as a communication device – a way of better letting other road users your intentions to improve safety and traffic flow. If the speed of development to this point is any indication, there is no limit to what can be achieved in the very near future.
Development to date has been swift and has been led by the luxury leaders of the brand before finding their way into the other production models. In 1994 Audi introduced the second-generation xenon headlights in Audi A8, and then in 2003 Audi adaptive light with automatic-dynamic headlight range control was also introduced in the A8.
The following year, LED daytime running lights were introduced in Audi A8 W12, followed in 2007 by the ‘string of pearls” daytime running light as a lighting strip in Audi A4.
In 2008, the full LED headlights found in the Audi R8 became available across model ranges and in 2010 the LED headlights with adaptive light were introduced in Audi A8 and the headlights were connected with the navigation data system for the first time.
Developments cam ethics and fast in the next few years. In 2011 visually homogeneous LED rear lights appeared on the Audi A6 and the following year, indicators with dynamic indication first appeared on the R8.
In 2013, the Audi A3 became available with full LED headlights and Audi became the first manufacturer to be awarded EU validation of LED technology as eco-innovation. In the same year, the A8 once again lit the way with Audi Matrix LED headlights with adaptive high beam, opening a brand new chapter.
In 2013 Audi became the first manufacturer to be awarded EU validation of LED technology as eco-innovation
But Audi was just getting started, the extraordinary range of laser light was first seen on the Audi R8 LMX in 2014
But Audi was just getting started, the extraordinary range of laser light was first seen on the Audi R8 LMX in 2014 and then OLED rear lights became a fixture on the Audi TT RS just two years later.
Laser light entered the mainstream, albeit it at the top end of the range in 2017, when the A8 flagship featured HD Matrix LED headlights with laser light as the additional high beam. It also featured for the first time what Audi calls dynamic lighting scenarios, with the now familiar leaving and coming home functions.
Only cutting-edge lighting was appropriate for the brand’s first all-electric model, the Audi e-tron, so in 2019 the Audi e-tron and e-tron Sportback featured Digital Matrix LED headlights (DML).
Even last year, amidst the global pandemic and all that went with it, Audi still managed to introduce digital daytime running light signatures in Audi A3 and of course the digital OLED technology in new Audi Q5.
New developments currently in the pipeline take this tradition of innovation ever further, says César Muntada, Head of Lighting Design at Audi:
“Humans can grasp information particularly fast with their eyes. That’s why we take advantage of the smart interaction between light and the surrounding area in our models.
The objective is to achieve simple and direct communication that can be unwithout words across cultures and around the world. Digitisation will significantly help us in our efforts of setting light into motion and make this form of communication even more understandable. Take, for example, the wiping turn signal whose motion is reminiscent of the beckoning of a hand. In this way, light becomes a universal language in road traffic – both during daytime and at night.”
From a technical viewpoint too, the future looks bright, according Audi’s Head of Lighting Development, Stephan Berlitz:
“Over the next 10 years, LED will continue to be the dominant lighting technology. In addition, there are two other lighting technologies, laser light source … for high performance and OLED with its area-like, homogenous rear lighting that gives us great latitude. We’re going to continue developing the digital OLED and complement it with new functions.
The possibilities are seemingly endless and the potential for increased night vision, safety and personalising light signatures are tremendously exciting. Who knows what the next two decades will bring.
Over the next 10 years, LED will continue to be the dominant lighting technology
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