Audi claims to be ready to revolutionise car lighting technologies. Company spokesperson David Ingram tells Futurespace Magazine what exactly Audi has in the pipeline.
You don’t have to be of a certain age, nor be a fan of the 1980s television series Knight Rider to want a car with a dazzling array of gadgetry. Certainly cars in recent years have taken great strides forward in this area with most now displaying space-age technologies.
However, Audi is close to being able to introduce the most advanced lighting technologies since the wipe-action lights seen on the front of KITT – the car behind the Knight Rider series – exploded onto our screens together with David Hasselhoff 30 years ago.
Lasers, wipe-action indicators and speed-sensitive swarms of organic LEDs, could all be part of the future for Audi, (if pioneering development projects currently at the drawing board stage), are given the green light.
The intention behind these new lighting technologies is to create car lights that react to the environment around the car and reflect the speed, direction and behaviour of the car itself so as to improve its safety and usability.
“Matrix beam technology will allow its cars’ headlights to identify important objects in the driver’s field of view…”
Audi’s new ‘OLED Swarm’ technology would be the most visually obvious if used on future Audi models. It could transform the rear of the car into a “large, continuous illuminated surface”, where the individual lights would fluctuate according to the movements of the vehicle.
For example, when the car turns right, the light would flow to the right like a shoal of fish and when the car brakes they would flow ‘forwards’. The flowing motion would quicken when the car was travelling faster to enable following drivers to more easily gauge the car’s actions.
The lighting would be provided by Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs), which are formed from an organic material rather than semi-conductor crystals. The organic material is a paste that can be applied to a flat surface so that when an electrical voltage is applied, the molecules in the paste emit photons and the surface lights up.
The other project Audi is working on is matrix beam technology that will allow its cars’ headlights to identify important objects in the driver’s field of view and either illuminate them more directly – if the object is a person, animal or road sign – or divert their light pool around them if the object is another vehicle. The objects would be identified by assessing the environment using a camera, the car’s navigation system and from additional sensors.
These adjustable light beams would be achieved by numerous small individual diodes backed by lenses or reflectors to provide precisely targeted illumination without the need for a swivelling mechanism. The technology could also be used at the rear of the car. For example, a laser beam fog light could illuminate the water droplets in the air to make them visible in the form of a large warning triangle to following drivers.
Ingram says all these features will be available within two or three years in theory, as the technology is well advanced. Although practically some of these features are not yet covered by EU legislation, so it may be a little while before we see them appear on Audi cars. But if the developments are going to be anything like the company has made out, it should be worth the wait.