Audi launches lighting lab

February 17, 2015 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
At its headquarters in Ingolstadt, carmaker Audi has opened a development and test centre for interior and exterior lighting. With a driveable light tunnel of 120 metres, the new Lighting Assistance Centre (LAC) serves to develop and test the advanced lighting designs including the functions of the high-beam and camera-based lighting assistance systems.

Core element of the  lighting competence centre is the biggest lighting tunnel for vehicles in Europe. The Audi engineers there cooperate closely with the designers so that new ideas can be put onto the road faster. Their motorsport colleagues also often deliver valuable stimulus from the world’s toughest test bench: the racetrack.

With the double function of light as an aesthetic brand message and as an element of safety and comfort, the engineers are experimenting with a range of future technologies from LED to OLED, Laser and light guides. One of the next steps for the car maker will be matrix laser headlights. Audi's approach is somewhat different from other next-gen lighting designs from car makers like BMW and Daimler: A chip fitted with hundreds of thousands of individually controlled micro-mirrors (much like the projectors used to visualise Powerpoint presentations) divides the laser beam into tiny pixels. Applied to exterior lighting of a car, this makes it possible to adapt the lighting pattern to any driving situation - or even to project graphical information onto the road.

Innovation also in the taillight: Audi plans to enhance lighting functions to become a communications medium. For example, a laser taillight could assume the shape of a warning triangle in fog or rain conditions, effectively keeping trailing vehicles at a safe distance, the company sketched its vision of the future. In addition, OLEDs not only at the rear but also an the flanks could enable novel functions that indicate to other traffic participants the intentions of the driver in front of them. An example that Audi already demonstrated at another opportunity is lights that flow quickly forward, augmenting the brake light at the back of the car.

At the opportunity of the LAC opening, the company provided insights into studies and developments for future lighting designs.

Design model with OLEDs