The war for luxury car sales supremacy has found a battleground – headlamps. All three leading luxury carmakers -- BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz -- are taking advantage of consumers’ preference for such features, which bring added safety for both vehicle occupants and drivers of other cars as well as pedestrians, thanks to innovations like bright, energy-efficient LED headlights, smart high beams, and infrared-assisted spotlights that shine on potential road-side threats.
These innovations also allowed luxury carmakers to justify the difference in prices between their offerings and those of mass-market brands. "Luxury-car margins are under pressure as the carmakers expand their lineups and mass-market vehicles improve in quality," said August Joas, head of the global automotive practice at consultant Oliver Wyman.
Of the three, Audi is leading the way, as evidenced by its introduction of headlamp technology. In October, Audi demonstrated the capability of its next-generation headlamps. Audi had a woman walk to and fro in front of a light from a car's high beams. Instead of blinding the woman, the light automatically avoided the place where she went, while keeping the roadway lit.
Audi's latest headlamp technology -- Matrix LED -- connects computer-controlled LEDs with a camera to avoid blinding drivers of up to eight vehicles from the glare of the high beams. Matrix LED combines 50 independently controlled LEDs to create almost 1 billion different light variations, adjusting for traffic situations like city and highway driving and oncoming cars and bicycles.
"We have redefined light," Stephan Berlitz, Audi's head of lighting development, said during the October presentation. This feature can be availed in Germany as an EUR2,400 ($3,200) option on the EUR74,500 A8 executive sedan. Matrix LED has yet to be approved for installation in vehicles sold in the US.
In the recently updated A8 flagship sedan, the new Audi Matrix LED headlights feature navigation-based cornering lights and, in conjunction with the night vision assistant, a marker light that warns the driver of pedestrians in the dark and which also alerts the pedestrians.
The new Audi A8 comes with a turn signal light consists of lighting elements that illuminate in a defined sequence, which makes it easier for others to perceive the driver’s turning intentions, even under difficult conditions. Each headlight has 18 light-emitting diodes arranged in a strip that is subdivided into seven blocks.
Meanwhile, each taillight employs 24 LED units in eight segments, as used to dynamically indicate the turning direction. During flashing, the blocks are sequentially activated at 20 ms intervals, from the inside outwards in the desired turning direction. After 150 ms, all segments are bright and for another 250 ms, all segment illuminate in full intensity.