Audi TT Technology
Audi TT Technology
Audi TT Technology. Click image to enlarge

Article by Lesley Wimbush, photos by Lesley Wimbush and courtesy Audi

INGOLSTADT, Germany – In the high-stakes game of in-car tech, you can’t afford to be left behind. With such huge leaps forward in all facets of vehicle sophistication, this is no time for complacency.

The autonomous car is no longer a fantasy, although it exists in the market place only in a co-pilot’s role – for now.

There are cars that can parallel-park themselves, cars that take over in stop-and-go traffic, soothe your frazzled nerves with aromatherapy, massage your rigid shoulder blades and read your emails aloud while you make your way home.

We recently visited the Audi Forum headquarters in Ingolstadt, Germany, to have a sneak peak at some of the latest technology to emerge from this premier builder of luxury cars, as showcased by the next generation Audi TT.

One of the most fascinating areas of emerging car technology is the latest generation of headlights. Not only are they an important safety factor, headlights are a defining style characteristic for any brand, and nowhere is the competition more furious than in the premium luxury segment.

It’s been a triple-headed race between BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz to see who could be the first to get their new headlight technology to market.

Mercedes-Benz won that round by debuting their LED-based system last fall with the new S-Class. It uses 56 diodes per headlight, and computer-controlled, motorized masking to block out sections of the beam to avoid blinding oncoming motorists, while detecting and illuminating pedestrians and wildlife.

Not to be outdone, BMW has been developing their own futuristic lighting system, composed of a trio of blue lasers – which are filtered through a block of yellow phosphorous to produce a clear white light. They work with the car’s onboard navigation and other systems to detect traffic and heavily settled areas, and automatically move the light to avoid oncoming drivers. While there are no concrete figures as yet – these headlights will probably come at a hefty cost.

Audi introduced us to their system – making its debut with the 2015 Audi A8, and now on the soon-to-appear TT. Similar to the Mercedes, but with no moving parts, Audi’s Matrix LED system is comprised of some 25 different segments containing 12 diodes per headlight, lenses and reflectors, and automatically deactivates certain portions when oncoming traffic is detected. Like the Mercedes system, the matrix headlights work with the car’s sensors, cameras and GPS systems to warn of pedestrians and animals at night, and to anticipate corners and adapt accordingly. But unlike Mercedes’s system, the Matrix LED system has no moving parts.

Audi TT TechnologyAudi TT Technology
Audi TT Technology. Click image to enlarge

Led by Dr. Christian Funk, head of Audi’s Development Lighting Functions, we’re shown a demonstration of how the system detects the difference between approaching traffic, and an object that needs illuminating.

It’s pretty cool – the Audi headlight effectively forms a tunnel of darkness around the approaching car, while still providing enough light for the driver to see.

“This is not just about design” said Funk. “This is a key safety element”. Since 25 percent of accidents occur at night – 96 percent of which are vision-related, this new generation of headlights is a leap forward for night time driving safety.

Unfortunately, while Europe’s laws have kept pace with rapidly advancing technology – ours, sadly, have not. None of these headlights are legal as yet in Canada.

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