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'Smart' Audi headlights

When the German manufacturer's all new Audi TT model arrives in October, it's unlikely many consumers will be focused on the vehicle's headlights though they are the latest safety technology from the brand.


The new Audi TT's headlights


The new TT's headlights will be the matrix LED headlights which were first seen on the latest Audi A8 and according to Audi they are a serious safety boost. The company says that compared with conventional halogen lamps they’re, “like the difference between a manual typewriter and a high-speed computer.”


What are matrix LED headlights and why are they better?


Matrix LED lights centre around an electronic anti glare main beam system, meaning the driver enjoys maximum night time vision but other road users are not blinded as a result. In the matrix system, the LED light cone is divided into twelve segments which automatically switch off individually as necessary when a forward facing onboard camera detects other vehicles, cyclists or pedestrians ahead or approaching from the opposite direction. The system recognises the headlights of a car or motorbike coming the other way at a distance of around 600 metres, while tail-lights of vehicles in front are spotted at about 400 metres.


The matrix LED lamps are electronically controlled rather than mechanically for greater reliability and are even linked to the navigation system so they can anticipate when the car is leaving built up areas for country roads or approaching a corner. As a result, the lights will know when to automatically switch from dipped to main beam and turn on the cornering light function, achieved by dimming some sections of the light pattern and intensifying others.


According to the designers at night 96% of the information absorbed by the driver's brain comes from vision. This is important to the company as 25% of all road accidents in Germany, the manufacturer's home country, happen at night.


Audi lighting expert, Jurgen Wilhelmy, commented hopes the new LED system will seriously slash the accident figures, saying that at night, “The eyes are the bottleneck.” According to Wilhelmy, it can also pick up cyclists from 200-300 metres ahead, assuming that they have a sufficiently bright front lamp.


Bentley and Porsche to gain Audi LEDs


The new headlight technology is likely to be offered on next generation versions from Bentley and Porsche's line ups, with the companies already working on their own applications of the matrix LED system. This sharing of technology is possible because all three brands are owned by parent company, the Volkswagen Group.


Audi also have another lighting system in progress, the Laserlight, which will appear on the company's 2014 Le Mans endurance race car, the R18 e-tron quattro.