The Evolution 
of Exterior Lighting

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Audi lights the way.
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At Audi, it’s been said that light is everything. The way we develop, harness, transmit and see light are important factors that are taken into serious consideration when producing vehicles that bear our iconic four rings logo. “Our lighting design stands for the perfect interplay between technology and design,” said Marc Lichte, Head of Design at Audi. “It expresses the character of our models even more clearly.”
As a leading innovator of automotive lighting design and technology, the latest discoveries in our research and development allow us to produce vehicles with functionality to help you see and be seen on the road. From the simple halogen bulbs of yesterday, to the xenon and full LED lighting of now—and looking to the future with Matrix LED, OLED and Matrix Laser lighting—Audi continuously looks for ways to bring progress to the world of light.
Light it up
Let’s take a minute to briefly discuss one of our current lighting systems: xenon headlights. These gas discharge lamps produce a slightly violet hue with a color temperature identical to daylight, illuminating roads better than halogen lights using incandescent bulbs. Also, xenon headlights are energy-efficient with enhanced longevity.
The light-emitting diode, also known as LED, is another popular form of automotive lighting because it’s efficient, can cast a much brighter light and offers more freedom with regards to headlight design. But LEDs are more than efficient. In most cases, they’re maintenance-free and can last the life of your vehicle.
*All dates are European.
2008
Audi debuts LED headlight technology with the European Audi R8 production model.
2010
Audi LED headlights make motorsport debut with the Audi Le Mans sport prototype.*
LED light closely resembles actual daylight and can help reduce eye fatigue. That’s because LED technology—with a color temperature of nearly 5,500 kelvin—helps your eyes to perceive more contrast with less strain. This is especially helpful at night and in adverse weather conditions, such as fog and precipitation, in which case there’s less of a glare to distract you.
On the opposite end of your Audi vehicle, engineers have developed ways to integrate LED lighting technology into the taillights. Audi LED taillights come on quickly and shine brightly, activating up to ten times faster than conventional bulbs. This helps give drivers following your car more time to react by possibly noticing your brake lights sooner.
Enter the Matrix
One thing is certain when the topic of Audi Matrix LED headlights[1] comes to light: Our signature lighting style is unmistakable. Currently available in Europe, with hopes that it will come Stateside soon, the stunning three-dimensional effect created by the Matrix LED headlights are the product of intimate collaboration between engineers and designers. “It is our understanding of one another’s areas of competence that make us so strong,” said Cesar Muntada Roura, Head of Lighting Design.
In addition to efficiency and beautiful design, Matrix LED headlights offer adaptive light to help give the driver improved visibility without hindering approaching traffic visibility. Our innovative Audi Matrix LED technology uses the vehicle’s navigation system to take information from a camera and precision onboard sensors to produce exceptional illumination, using LED high-beam light that can be subdivided into individual segments. Based on data the camera receives, the LED control unit can automatically activate or deactivate the LEDs individually and dim them as needed, with up to several million types of light distribution configurations.
2010
Audi offers full LED headlights on the Audi A8.*
2013
Audi introduces the Matrix LED headlight system in Europe.*
As a driver, one of the true benefits of the Matrix LED system is helping to provide increased visibility while you’re on the road. Audi Matrix LEDs void out light that would otherwise shine directly into oncoming traffic but still continue to fully illuminate areas between other vehicles and alongside your vehicle. To help prevent against glare from highly reflective surfaces, the automatic traffic sign glare reduction feature is designed to dim the light that’s hitting the reflective object.
Our lighting repertoire also includes OLED technology, which stands for “organic light emitting diode,” and pushed us to explore our creativity in lighting design. OLEDs can emit an extremely homogeneous yet precise light without casting harsh shadows or requiring use of reflectors.
“In flexible OLEDs, the substrate material is simply a film—instead of rigid glass,” said Stephan Berlitz, Head of Lighting Functions and Innovations. “We can use this to design totally new shapes and achieve completely new, three-dimensional effects. This combination of aesthetics and highly innovative technologies is something we will continue to push in the future, because OLEDs offer us even more progressive design options.”
A prototype vehicle for CES 2016®—the Audi e-tron® quattro® concept vehicle—was equipped with OLED taillights to demonstrate its functionality and how it can be carried over into the Matrix LED and Matrix Laser technologies. OLED lighting made its debut on its first production model as available OLED taillights with dynamic rear turn signals on the 2018 Audi TT in the U.S.
2011
Audi introduces visually homogeneous LED taillights in the Audi.
2013
Debut of Audi laser taillight at the Consumer Electronics Show®.
2013
Debut of OLED lighting with “The Swarm” taillight concept.
Major laser
Audi takes automotive lighting technology to new heights with the development of Matrix Laser technology, based on LaserSpot high beam lamps first featured on the European production 2015 Audi R8 LMX. Available in the U.S. on the 2018 R8, these durable, long-lasting, high-resolution Matrix Laser high beams are designed to illuminate roads with responsiveness and adaptability in all driving scenarios. These lighting systems serve as the foundation of subsequent Audi Matrix Laser technology.
The futuristic Matrix Laser headlights work by using more than 100,000 individually controlled segments and a fast-operating micro-mirror to redirect the laser beam, or light. With fine precision, it can quickly activate or deactivate the laser diodes in relation to the micro-mirror’s position. “Each headlight uses a single laser as the light source, but the beam is broken into a million distinct pixels by the diodes,” said Dr. Volker Kaese, Head of Innovation Management Product.
At low vehicle speeds, Matrix Laser light is distributed to a larger projection area, illuminating the road with a very wide range. At high vehicle speeds, the micro-mirror’s aperture angle becomes smaller, so the intensity and light range become substantially increased, making this more precise distribution of light much more useful, especially in highway driving situations.
In terms of improving safety, Matrix Laser headlights will have the capability to warn pedestrians of your oncoming presence. Plus, the headlights can detect other potential hazards and alert those same pedestrians using a digital warning. Berlitz said, “The car can give the passerby a signal to cross the road. It can also provide a warning if a car is approaching fast from behind.”
The future looks bright
With all the lighting technologies developed throughout the years, it’s evident that we are committed to finding new ways to illuminate the future. The simple, yet highly effective light emitting diode represents a brighter tomorrow starting with today.
2017
Audi offers OLED as an option in the rear lights for the Audi TT RS Coupe.
2017
Audi offers differentiation of trim levels via variations of animations in Europe.