Better visibility and more precise illumination – Audi is constantly building a technological advantage with the headlights and taillights on its vehicles.

27 January, 2022

Audi and innovative automotive lighting technology have long been intertwined. The brand has invested heavily in research and development in the field that has placed at the forefront of new developments and made the Audi name synonymous with cutting-edge lighting technology. The distinctive lighting signatures of successive Audi models are as eye-catching as the models themselves and are often imitated, and just as the limits appear to have been reached, Audi again pushes the envelope with even more ‘illuminating’ ideas.

Take the new Audi A8 as the classic example – a model that has always represented the cutting-edge in automotive across the board.

The tech behind the digital Matrix LED headlights and OLED rear lights is especially arresting on the new-look Audi A8. Up front, the digital matrix LED headlights use digital micromirror device (DMD) technology, similar to video projectors, with each headlight comprised of some 1.3 million micromirrors that refract the rays into tiny pixels, ensuring high-precision light control. This is the basis for functions such as the lane and orientation lights that are designed for use on motorways and which illuminate the driver’s lane in especially bright light. When unlocking and exiting the car, the digital Matrix LED headlights can cast projections onto floors or walls, which are known as the dynamic coming home/leaving home animations.

On the rear, the Audi A8 features a continuous, segmented light strip paired with digital organic light emitting diodes (OLED) fitted as standard. This technology first made its debut on the current Audi Q5 models, and here on the Audi A8, customers can choose between two rear light signatures. In addition, those who opt for the Audi drive select mode ‘dynamic’ enjoys an additional one created exclusively for this mode. Likewise featuring coming home and leaving home animations, the digital OLED tail lights also integrate with the assistance systems to perform another special function – proximity detection. As is the case with the Q5, if a road user comes within less than two metres of a stationary A8’s rear end, all of the OLED segments light up to warn the interloper that they’re too close.

New variations on these themes and technology were also introduced with the all-electric Audi Q4 e-tron for example. This mode became the first Audi to provide drivers with the option of expressing themselves individually through the vehicle’s lights. The digital daytime running lights (included in the Matrix LED headlights optional extra package) offer a choice of different daytime running light signatures that not only match the vehicle design but also suit each customer and their character. Customers can even change the signature every day via the vehicle’s MMI if they like.

“Every signature must have its own clear, unique look,” says Thomas Bühner, exterior styling designer responsible for designing the Audi Q4 e-tron’s headlights and rear lights. “I’m really excited to find out which digital light signature we’ll see most frequently in everyday use. After all, the customers’ choice provides direct feedback on our design.” 

Bühner enjoyed a great deal of creative freedom when designing the headlights. The middle strip of the daytime running lights is already bright enough on its own to provide the light values prescribed by law. This meant that the designer was able to incorporate all the surrounding light segments into the design to create a coherent overall concept.

The functionality of light constantly being explored and the limits pushed at Audi. In addition to illumination, using a vehicle’s lighting as a means of communicating with other road users has long been on the agenda at Audi. Headlights that project symbols onto the road to warn other road users of dangers – such as a hazard on the road or an accident – are part of this future vision of mobility.

Realistically, there are virtually no limits when it comes to light design, and while the legal regulations determine what is possible for the time being, the future looks … limitless.