RAC Cars News


Audi Lighting The Future

By raccars Published

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Audi has announced its latest innovative safety technique, involving that rather unglamorous car component: the headlight. The company claims its Matrix LED headlights make roads safer for both drivers and approaching vehicles but US authorities are less convinced.

The smart system is made up of 25 LEDs, set out in five sets of five clusters each, with additional reflectors, which work in tandem with Audi's existing integrated car camera system, to receive information about oncoming traffic and road conditions. The technology then uses the information sent by the cameras to dim or extinguish individual high beam LEDs that are shining in the direction of oncoming vehicles. The camera plots the position of the approaching traffic and advises the LED system to reduce the beam strength of the appropriate lights and turn them off altogether, as the car gets closer. After the traffic has passed the lights will automatically re-illuminate. The beauty of the system is its precision in shutting off only the exact beams that shine directly at oncoming drivers and leaving high beam illumination elsewhere on the road and verge. The system automatically adapts to single oncoming vehicles or busier traffic.

However that's not all. Matrix can also be linked to Audi's integrated navigation system, available as an option, to predict upcoming curves in the road and light them up, before the car arrives. Other manufacturers offer adaptive headlights with sensors to plot curves in the road and pivot the headlight accordingly, but Audi has made its system more forward thinking than the others, by linking it to the satellite navigation so it can work further in advance.

Pedestrian safety has also been catered to with a night vision option to sense pedestrians. The system will alert both driver and pedestrian to each other's presence, by automatically offering a quick flash of a cluster of LEDs.

The new Audi A8, due out at the end of this year or the beginning of 2014, will be the first car to have the system installed – for European buyers at least. US cars have fallen foul of the country's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has refused to legalise the technology, despite three years of negotiation by Audi.

The NTSA has dug its heels in over US legislation which requires vehicles to have separate high and low beam headlight settings. Given that Matrix does this automatically, that function is redundant, so Audi and various other manufacturers developing similar systems have been petitioning the NTSA to revise its legislation, to move with the times and the changes in modern technology.

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