Audi is the leading brand in automotive lighting technology: new solutions such as the laser spot for the high beam and Matrix laser headlights are driving progress. The lighting innovations enhance road safety while at the same time being an aesthetic expression of the brand’s values. Besides road lighting, the second major field of work for the lighting developers and designers is interior lighting. The interior lighting of the new Audi Q7 is particularly sophisticated and offers the driver numerous networked applications in the cabin.
Aesthetics, dynamics and interaction – these terms characterize all lighting technologies developed by Audi. The exterior lighting is an important element of the exterior design. It is a bold, unequivocal signature that lets an Audi be recognized even at a great distance. And then there are the dynamics: the light moves and gains new forms of expression and differentiation. The dynamic turn signals, for example, move in the direction the driver is turning. The Audi light of the future will interact with other road users and with the driver, thus becoming even more of an information medium. An innovative laser rear fog light, for example, could use a light signal to warn trailing drivers against getting too close. Interaction carries over into the cabin: light functions that send important signals to the driver could be integrated into decorative elements in the future.
New test environment: the Lighting Assistance Center in Ingolstadt
Audi is further extending its lead in automotive lighting technology with a new Lighting Assistance Center. Opened in February 2015, the facility is the longest drivable light tunnel in Europe, measuring 120 meters (393.7 ft). The Audi developers can work here on innovative solutions for the high beam and future camera-based lighting systems. By eliminating the need for numerous nighttime test drives, this will enable the latest technologies to hit the streets even faster.
The new Lighting Assistance Center is linked technically and physically to the existing light tunnel at the Audi plant in Ingolstadt. It is located in the third basement of a newly constructed, eleven-storey building. The Lighting Assistance Center is 120 meters (393.7 ft) long, 12 meters (39.4 ft) wide and five meters (16.4 ft) tall. Over the last 25 meters (82.0 ft), these figures are 18 meters (59.1 ft) wide and nine meters (29.5 ft) tall. It is equipped with a street-like floor surface, a turntable and a scale for the cars, a laser laboratory, a workshop, a media room and separate rooms for the development of interior lighting technologies.
State of the art: Matrix LED headlights
The Matrix LED headlights currently available in the Audi A6*, A7 Sportback*, A8* and TT* models illuminate the road extremely well in any situation without blinding other road users with glare. A row of compact light‑emitting diodes – 25 LEDs per headlight in the A8 – produces the high beam. Working together with a camera, the control unit can turn off individual LEDs or dim them in 64 stages depending on the situation. Millions of different light patterns are possible. The high beam of the Matrix LED headlight can mask out individual oncoming or leading vehicles while continuing to fully illuminate the zones between and adjacent to them. Full illumination is restored once the oncoming traffic has passed.
Enhanced visibility and safety: the laser spot for the high beam
The laser spot for the high beam – the latest Audi technology in the lighting sector – made its debut in a production model in mid-2014. In each headlight, a laser module with four diodes generates a cone of light that extends several hundred meters. A phosphor converter converts the blue laser light into roadworthy white light. The laser spot offers the driver major advantages with respect to visibility and safety. Audi will offer the high-end technology as an option in the new R8 high‑performance sports car.
The light of tomorrow: Matrix laser headlights
Audi is taking the next developmental step with the Matrix laser headlights. Their central element is the digital micromirror device (DMD), a matrix of hundreds of thousands of micromirrors that catch the light from multiple laser diodes. Each of these micromirrors can be tilted up to 5,000 times per second. The light is broken down into tiny pixels and illuminates the road in high resolution and precise control. With DMD technology, Audi cars will be able to generate the ideal light for any driving situation. Targeted light shows the driver the way when turning or moving through intersections, even projecting arrows or similar graphics onto the road, if desired. The high-resolution light can highlight traffic signs or very precisely avoid blinding other road users with glare.
Light and networking: the interior of the new Audi Q7
The new Audi Q7 features extremely sophisticated interior lighting. A lighting package with LEDs and light guides is standard; an optional extended package with additional light guides gives customers even more precise control over the distribution and color of the light.
Another highlight in the new Q7 is the Audi virtual cockpit. The fully digital instrument cluster with its 12.3-inch TFT monitor presents all information as intricately rendered 3D graphics. The graphics quality, transparent images and animations together with the high-end resolution of 1,440 x 540 pixels create an all-new visual experience. The driver can choose between various view modes. Working in the background is a high-performance graphics processor from Audi’s partner, NVIDIA. The MMI operating system in the new Audi Q7 follows an entirely new logic. It is oriented on the concept of modern smartphones. Flat hierarchies replace bifurcated menu trees, and a free text search function often provides the desired result after entering just a few characters. The touchpad (MMI touch) also supports multifinger gestures such as zoom and scroll, and provides haptic feedback after each input. Customers can also control the various functions with a natural voice control system that not only understands predefined commands, but also phrases from everyday speech.
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