Always keeping the issue of safety and customer satisfaction at the forefront, Audi has added a new one to its work on these two issues, which form the basis of its success. Headlight technology, which is becoming more and more important, opens the door to new possibilities for the driver, from additional safety to communication and personalization. Systematic headlight digitization makes all this possible. Especially the new Audi A8 is one of the best examples of this.
Digital Matrix LED headlights and digital OLED taillights take the customer experience to a whole new level. For the first time in an Audi model, the headlight has been fully digitized. The car can be further personalized thanks to the digital OLED taillights. Digital Matrix LED headlights also; It includes three new functions: enhanced traffic information, signal lane lighting on highways and positioning lighting on rural roads. These features not only demonstrate Audi's “One step ahead with technology” feature, they also create added value.
Considering headlight technology and design as one of the key elements of success for decades and continuing to set new benchmarks in the automotive industry in this field, Audi accelerates its efforts to offer new functions that can be used to further increase safety with the digitalization of headlights.
For example, it can communicate with the outside world by combining digital OLED taillights with a proximity indicator. In addition, taillight technology allows Audi customers to choose the taillight signature via MMI for the first time.
Two new new functions with Digital Matrix LED
A new technology is coming to life that will ensure safety on highways on dark roads and when driving at night: positioning lane lighting. It helps the driver focus on driving by illuminating the vehicle's lane. The position marker integrated into the positioning lighting, in the form of darkened arrows in a kind of “carpet of light” known as Lane Lighting, ensures safe driving in the middle of the lane by predicting the vehicle's position between the lane markings.
During lane changes on the highway, lane lighting brightly illuminates both lane markers, while positioning lighting indicates the vehicle's exact position in the lane. At this point; The second new function comes into play with the signal lamps in the lane lighting. Digital Matrix LED headlights create a dynamic flashing field on the corresponding side of the lane lighting when the turn signals are activated. So the lane lighting repeats and intensifies the signal from the signals. In this way, the upcoming lane change is clearly communicated to other stakeholders in the traffic. The digitalization of the headlight makes driving even safer for other road users when driving with low beam or high beam headlights on bends, in the city or on highways, as it precisely masks oncoming or driving vehicles in the same direction.
Third new function: enhanced traffic information
Apart from possible accident or malfunction warnings provided as images via MMI with HERE maps data, Digital Matrix LED headlights, including DMD technology, offer a different level of reliability. Apart from the display in the digital instrument cluster, the headlights project a warning on the road for about three seconds. A triangle with an exclamation point is projected from the steering wheel. While the driver remains facing the road, this alert offers the opportunity to speed up reaction time in the event of an accident or breakdown.
Behind the digitization of Matrix LED headlights is a new technology with the abbreviation DMD. This stands for digital micro mirror device and was used in video projectors before. At the core of the system is a small chip with approximately 1,3 million micromirrors whose edges are several thousandths of a millimeter long. Each can be angled up to 5.000 times per second using electrostatic fields. Depending on the setting, the LED headlight is directed to the road through lenses or used for masking.
This means that the headlight is no longer a constant illumination. Instead, it works like a constantly refreshing video image.
Support that makes life easier: marking lighting
The marking lighting in the Digital Matrix LED headlights helps detect pedestrians near the road in the dark. When they are in front of the car, the night vision assistant detects the situation and the marking lighting highlights the person. Thus, driving becomes safer for both the driver and other traffic stakeholders.
Reflecting personal character: advanced dynamic lighting scenarios
The advanced dynamic lighting scenarios used when getting in and out of the vehicle reveal how connected light design and light technology are at Audi. Personal lighting effects serve as an expression of personal preferences. The user can select one of the five lighting effects they want via the MMI. These five different projections are implemented thanks to DMD technology.
Attention at its best: digital OLED taillights
OLED, used in the Audi TT RS in 2016, ushered in a new era in the automotive industry's lighting technology. Organic LED (or OLED for short) was used for the first time in the taillights. OLED units are semiconductor light surface sources that produce excellent homogeneity and extremely high contrast values. Brightness can be adjusted. In addition, the light source is configurable and can be divided into precisely interchangeable sections. The dynamic lighting scenario is also presented for the first time in OLED taillights with the AUDI TT RS.
Just four years later, Audi has further developed OLED through digitization in the Audi Q5. This digitization brought with it the possibility of changing the taillight signature. This change is based on the key features of OLEDs: high contrast, segmentation probability, high light homogeneity, and the smallest possible gaps between segments. Audi is the only automaker to offer this. In addition, digital OLED taillights are offered as standard equipment on the A8.
Audi headlight design makes it possible to choose a specific digital OLED backlight signature for each Audi model. Only digitization makes it possible to replace the taillights and customize the lighting design. The bus system allows individual control of each panel in the taillights and the OLED segment inside. In this way, personal preferences can be applied via MMI. For the first time, the new Audi A8 features three backlight signatures that the user can select via MMI. A fourth light signature is offered with the Audi S8.
Distance: Proximity indicator in digital OLED taillights improves safety
Digital OLED taillights use a proximity indicator to attract the attention of other road users. When a car approaches a parked Audi, the parking sensors detect movement and engage all OLED segments, catching the driver's attention. When Audi moves, the digital OLED taillights return to the chosen signature. This additional safety measure also applies to cyclists and scooter users.
A look into the future – the fun that comes with light-based gameplay
The Audi A6 e-tron concept draws attention to the subject of light-based gaming. Progressive Digital Matrix LED headlights project video games onto a wall or floor in front of the car, allowing customers to play while the car is charging. The car's headlights turn into projectors for games controlled via a personal mobile device. The brand is considering offering new services and solutions to customers, such as integrating content from movie and game providers in the future.
When it comes to cornering: flexible digital OLED
Continuing to evolve, Digital Matrix LED headlights and especially digital OLED technology will not only be a traditional lighting source, but will determine the future. Its development will continue, with external displays aiming not only to increase security or enable further customization, but also to improve communication with the outside world. Flexible digital OLED taillights are one step ahead in terms of development. A flexible substrate allows them to move from a two-dimensional structure to a three-dimensional one. This not only offers a sharper design, but also makes it possible to integrate the digital light design outside of the headlights and allows symbol displays for additional communication with the outside world.
It can happen to anyone at any time. A pedestrian tries to cross the street between two parked cars, but cannot see the road because there is a truck on the road. Digital OLED taillights illuminate not only the rear, but also the side. If the vehicle is running, the person can see the approaching vehicle without stepping into the street.
An efficient change
Emphasis can be placed on instant communication for the future as well as extensive customization. The functionality of the digital OLED taillights will have an interactive design. For example, thanks to comprehensive network solutions, an Audi will be able to learn about the hidden icing ahead. The car will be able to warn the traffic behind it, thanks to its taillights. Being aware of the danger, it will be possible to adjust the speed and distance early. Where permitted by law, it will also be possible to set digital OLED elements, for example, to directly inform drivers behind the car about dangerous situations.
More than a car's service life: OLED and quality for life
Durability is a frequently questioned issue with digital OLED taillights. Audi's digital OLEDs are designed to meet the high demands of automotive use. A specially developed material, temperature control and capsule technology prevents degeneration and prevents OLED elements from coming into contact with moisture. Thus, OLED meets the requirement for durability and meets the same demands as conventional inorganic LEDs. Therefore, digital OLEDs have a much longer service life than conventional OLEDs and achieve this with much higher light intensity to meet automotive exterior lighting challenges.
Larger taillight area: Reflected light from spoiler
For greater safety and communication, the reflective light integrated in the roof spoiler comes into play. Apart from the function of the third taillight, the “quattro” logo can also be projected onto the rear window. Not only does this function offer new design possibilities for communication, it also offers additional safety by expanding the taillight area. The light reflecting off the spoiler is only visible to the road users coming from behind, as it only looks to the rear. The driver does not see this additional lighting effect at all. This technology will be available in summer 2022 in an internal combustion engine SUV designed specifically for China. Audi wants to make the projection light in the spoiler available worldwide in order to offer more customization options in the future. However, user-designed projections are not possible for legal reasons.
An Audi shows the way: digital floor projections from signals
Communication is the key to success in many areas. Audi wants to intensify communication between the car and its surroundings through digital floor projections in the future. Signal ground projections are one of the first examples of this. Three symbols projected on the street, front and rear, inform cyclists about a lane change, for example, or warn pedestrians about turning. This function offers simple and clear communication and enhanced security.
This type of communication could pave the way for wider projections in the area around the car. For example, a warning can be projected onto the road before a door opens. Audi is working on gradually expanding this perimeter lighting, and in the future will offer different customizable floor projections through digitalisation, apart from safety aspects. These may also be driver-related information and signatures, but should not threaten the user's security and privacy.