Lighting technology at Audi: when the headlight becomes a projector
Headlights: The matrix LED light from Audi is going digital
The headlight technology in the car no longer has to hide from home cinema projectors. What started with carbide lamps in the vehicle front at the beginning of the 20th century is now a multifunctional light talent that can precisely cut out oncoming vehicles from its own light cone.
Conventional matrix LED systems often work reliably here, but with the digitization of this technology, manufacturers such as Audi are taking flexibility to a new level.
With the help of so-called DMD chips (Digital Micromirror Device), the headlights can be distributed as needed on the road without mechanical components. Around 1.3 million micro-mirrors are actuated electrostatically and allow the lighting engineers, in addition to playful animations when entering and exiting the car, to project the car’s own lane onto the road, highlight the current lane or warn of dangers.
This is how the digital matrix LED light works
Three high-performance LEDs throw their light onto the micromirror chip via a mirror. It distributes the light depending on the position of the switched reflectors. The part that shouldn’t be on the street ends up in a light trap; the rest is thrown onto the street via a projection lens.
The DMD chip comes from the supplier Texas Instruments and is the only one of its kind so far. It is smaller than a thumbnail and the mirrors on its surface have an edge length of only eight micrometers.
Information from the cameras, night vision and data from other sensors serve as the data source for the light carpet or the position of other road users.
Rear lights: digital OLED technology as a means of communication
But not only the headlights are now being digitized at Audi, the taillights are also getting new functions thanks to digital OLED technology (Organic Light-Emitting Diode).
What the Ingolstadt company started with the dynamic indicators is now to be continued in terms of design with the small glass panels.
In the future, the company even plans to pack up to 600 light elements on just one panel. In this way, detailed warning symbols can be displayed in the lights and the environment can be interacted with.
How OLEDs work
Basically, OLEDs work like classic LEDs, except that they do not generate a single point of light, but rather shine on a defined area. Different layers in the OLED modules allow the applied current to act on the surface.
In the electronics sector, even displays based on this technology have become established. Since OLEDs are self-illuminating and do not require a backlight, they have extremely high contrast.
The black point of such displays is also significantly lower than that of conventional displays. While different colors can be shown in displays, only the color red has been common in the automotive sector so far.
The chemistry used in the OLED units has so far not made it possible to display white color tones; at least not in a quality that manufacturers imagine. In the future, Audi is also working on white OLEDs for their vehicles.
Competition: Mercedes also uses the technology in the S-Class
Lighting design has a long tradition at Audi. With the help of animations on the vehicle, purchase incentives are created, which also lead to better lighting options being brought onto the road more frequently.