The Matrix LED system uses a camera to scan the road ahead, then crops the projected light around other cars to avoid causing excessive glare.
The system recognises the headlights of a car or motorbike coming the other way at a distance of around 600 metres, while tail-lights of vehicles in front are spotted at about 400 metres. Audi’s head of lighting functions, Jurgen Wilhelmy, said that it can also pick up cyclists from 200-300 metres ahead, assuming that they have a sufficiently bright front lamp.
Mr Wilhelmy also told What Car? that Bentley and Porsche are already working on their own applications of the Matrix LED system. He added that the latter’s efforts are being led by a former Audi engineer: ‘The man who is now developing Porsche headlamps was at Audi for five years beforehand. He helped to create our Matrix LED technology - now he is working on their system.’
We asked an Audi insider whether the technology could be easily copied by brands outside of the VW Group. Our source hinted it was unlikely they would make any legal challenges: ‘It’s Audi technology - we have patents on it. But it’s also a safety technology that will help to save lives in the future. We are car makers, not lawyers, so we don’t want to be in court every week.’
The other lighting system in development is Laserlight. It will appear on the company’s 2014 Le Mans endurance race car - the R18 e-tron quattro - and is rumoured to illuminate up to 1km (0.62 miles) ahead of the car. Mr Wilhelmy said that any road car application of Laserlight would be much less bright: ‘In Europe, a road car can run headlights up to a maximum brightness of 344 lux, but I think even that is too much. Matrix LED in the TT runs at around 125 lux, so with Laserlight, I think up to 250 lux would be a good value. I don’t think anything beyond that is necessary.’
Mr Wilhelmy added that a combination of LED and laser technology could be used in future production models, similar to the set-up in the Le Mans race car. For example, the car could have LEDs for low beam illumination and make use of laserlight for the high beam.