LED headlights are already passé, it seems, as Audi and BMW race to become leaders in the field of laser headlight technology.
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Going one further, BMW is presenting a BMW M4 equipped with laser headlights at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, or CES, in Las Vegas. Called the BMW M4 Concept Iconic Lights, the concept previews future functions for the technology.
At a glance, the M4 concept isn’t that different from its road-going counterpart, but a distinctive light signature at the front gives away its latest feature.
While the glow from each headlight unit is distinctly blue in pictures, BMW promises the light emitted by the lamps is a pure, almost daylight-like white, projecting beams as far as 600 metres down the road.
In addition, the concept previews several functions that have not yet made their way into laser lighting technology – though the technology is already present in some of the more advanced LED headlight setups.
Integration with the car’s navigation system means the Adaptive Headlight control system can illuminate turns before any steering input is made. Using infrared technology, the lights can also highlight people or animals up to 100m up the road, ‘spotlighting’ them so the driver can take appropriate action.
More intriguing still is a ‘narrow clearance’ function, providing lighting that indicates the vehicle’s width on narrower roads so the driver is better informed on where to place the car. A ‘visionary’ system can also project car information onto the road, reducing the driver’s need to stare at the instruments.
At the rear, OLED technology allows for a more intricate pattern than existing LEDs, even allowing light patterns to change depending on the car’s driving mode – BMW suggests that a familiar L-shape pattern can be displayed when the car is in normal driving modes, which can then be changed when the car is in Sport mode.
The upshot of highly adaptable laser and OLED lighting is greater design freedom with better lighting output and greater safety. Using 30 percent less energy than LED lighting, lasers also precede another step forward in vehicle efficiency.
There’s no indication as to when such headlights will find their way into BMW’s volume models, but with lasers already offered in the plug-in hybrid i8, the technology may not be too far away.