Audi is introducing headlights in its electric SUVs that can project dynamic images on the road ahead. The Digital Matrix LED headlights will first be available as a custom option in the 2021 versions of its electric e-tron and e-tron Sportback.
The headlights will launch globally with an assortment of "welcome / leaving" animations that can be displayed when the vehicle is parked. But other features enabled by Dynamic Matrix LED — and limited to European customers for now — will offer more useful applications.
This is amazing — In a video, Audi demonstrates how the headlights can automatically adjust their coverage area on a road based on the circumstances. For instance, a driver can have high beams turned on at night and sensors will "bend" the light away when oncoming traffic is detected so other drivers aren't blinded. The headlights can also extend their "light carpet" left or right when making lane changes so the driver has clear visibility into the adjacent lane.
You could imagine all kinds of other applications for this technology. Maybe the headlights could project your distance from a wall when you're parking, for instance?
Not for you, Americans — It's a very cool concept, though, unfortunately, the full set of features will only be available in Europe at launch. Americans will be limited to accessing the more gimmicky "welcome / leaving" animations for now, but none of the safety features. Audi says it's working with regulators to make the full feature set available to U.S. buyers, though.
You'd think that Tesla, with all its experience in visual recognition thanks to its AutoPilot feature and all its bragging about being the world's most technologically advanced automaker, would be a perfect company to offer something like this — combine Matrix LED with Tesla's ability to recognize objects and night-time safety could increase dramatically. Unfortunately, the headlights in Tesla's cars are roundly criticized by owners for being of poor quality... so maybe it needs to go back to the fundamentals there. Or, alternatively, take a lesson from Germany, where it's currently building a new base anyway, so it won't have to look too far for local expertise.