Just recently, Audi debuted its new Q8 Concept at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show. The plug-in hybrid SUV is packed with some of the most advanced technology the automotive industry has ever seen. One of those incredibly impressive technologies was Audi’s new Matrix Laser headlight solution. However, don’t get too excited about it, American Audi fans, as the fancy lights won’t be coming to America.
The Matrix Laser headlights are similar to the standard laser headlights used in the Audi R8 LMX, except for that they can be manipulated in real time to shine only in certain areas, adjust the width of the beam, highlight certain objects or humans and even display images onto the road. “Each headlight uses a single laser as the light source, but the beam is broken into a million distinct pixels by the diodes,” said Volker Kaese, Audi’s director of innovation.
This allows the light to be projected exactly where the car wants it to be. So if there’s an oncoming car, it will actually shine the light around that car, as opposed to just dimming. Of if a pedestrian starts to cross the street, the car can use its headlights to shine a brighter beam onto the person, highlighting them for the driver. It can even display the word “STOP” in front of the walking pedestrian to get them to realize they’re walking into traffic. One incredible feature is that the lights car project two vertical lines forward to display the width of the car, so the driver can tell if they’ll be able to squeeze through tight traffic or fit into a parking spot.
According to Kaese, this system is better than having a Head-Up Display show the information on the windshield. “It’s better for your eyes, because you don’t have to refocus or redirect your vision as you’re driving.”
But despite all of this impressive and helpful new technology, the US says nay. Apparently, according to US automotive regulations, cars must have two different beam levels, one low and one high, like most conventional cars. Thanks to the Matrix Laser headlight’s ability to change its brightness far better than a conventional low and high-beam headlight, it only technically has one beam level. There aren’t two separate light sources in the headlight, one for low and one for high-beam. So the US squashed the idea.
“The United States has very low receptiveness to new lighting technology,” said IHS Markit analyst Christian Müller. “It will permit some things—daytime running lights, directional lighting in turns—but not make them mandatory. And if there isn’t a proven life-safety benefit for a new innovation it’s very hard to change the regulations to even permit things like matrix laser lights.”
So yet another great Audi idea that we won’t get here in the US, at least for some time, thanks to outdated laws and America’s complete reluctance to accept new ideas.