Dr. Wolfgang Huhn is Head of Development Light/Visibility at Audi. Stephan Berlitz is Head of Lighting Functions and Innovations; Cesar Muntada Roura is Head of Lighting Design.
Dr. Huhn, Audi is the acknowledged global leader in lighting technology. How was this leading role achieved?
Dr. Huhn: With the development of the LED daytime running lights, at the latest, we introduced a new topic with a new pace to the industry. We had instant success in the market, which also greatly benefited our development partners. This success, which we systematically expanded on, enables us to make new technologies affordable. For example, we can offer the new TT* with Matrix LED headlights at an affordable price.
Berlitz: We are the drivers for the entire market – and that also includes such areas as legislation. And we are still the pioneer when it comes to the collaboration between Design and Engineering, where we have been very successful from the very beginning.
“The key factor is understanding”
What makes this collaboration so successful?
Muntada: The key factor is the understanding on both sides. We designers understand what Development needs, and the technical side respects our requirements. We discuss all the opportunities presented openly and without qualification.
Berlitz: We even conduct joint predevelopment, during which each side leaves the other plenty of freedom. This enables us to establish a very broad framework for later production development. Our colleagues in Design help themselves to our idea pool, and in return contribute their own suggestions.
“Integral elements of the design”
What significance does lighting have for Audi’s exterior design?
Dr. Huhn: The headlights and rear lights are already integral elements of the car. Today it would be impossible to build even a clay design model without them, which was still common not all that long ago.
Muntada: The vehicle sculpture communicates with the light sculpture – it is no longer possible to separate the two. That also applies to the eyes – the dominant element of the face – in which you can recognize the character of the car, just like with a person. We are now beginning a new chapter in our design history in order to make the Vorsprung durch Technik even more clearly apparent. The cars’ proportions are changing, and that is having a great influence on the headlights and rear lights.
Dr. Huhn: With the lighting systems of the future, there will be a second differentiating factor besides design: the software. We are sitting on pole position here, too, because we develop our own software and functions, and can make intelligent use of the vehicle’s resources and surroundings. We are thinking in a great number of different directions here, including machine learning, where self-learning algorithms continuously improve the illumination.
“Innovations that we can barely imagine today”
What will Audi lighting look like in 2030?
Berlitz: The Matrix laser and Matrix LED technologies still have a lot of potential. We will use camera systems to control the light very precisely. And where our field of vision ends, we can use Car-to-X technologies, i.e. information from other cars and the infrastructure.
Muntada: Headlights are becoming somewhat smaller while at the same time even clearer and more cleanly structured, so that we can present the new technologies more distinctly than ever before. But the expression, which describes the progressive character of Audi, will not change significantly
Berlitz: The primary driver will be the interplay of aesthetics, dynamics and interaction. Our light will react more dynamically and strongly to the customers and the surroundings. In the next ten to 15 years, we will experience innovations that we can barely even imagine today. After all, laser light and Matrix LED headlights were still science fiction ten years ago.
Muntada: My vision for 2030 is a light that is in motion and interacts continuously with the customer from the moment they approach the vehicle. It will be extremely precise and functional, and the headlights that produce it will appear delicate, yet aesthetic.
“Light and body fuse”
Will we even still need headlights and rear lights 15 years from now?
Berlitz: One of our next steps will be the introduction of OLED technology to production vehicles – as tail lights. We are working in predevelopment with solutions where we apply OLED coatings directly to the body’s sheet metal. But we still have some questions to answer before this can be used in production.
Muntada: We have already succeeded in fusing light and the body in a few design models. It is a very attractive idea that we continue to pursue. When the light leaves its box and plays over the entire car, it can reinforce the brand’s presence on the road in an entirely new way.
The equipment and data specified in this document refer to the model range offered in Germany. Subject to change without notice; errors and omissions excepted.