A €4000 (£3430) pair of headlights might not seem the most enticing option on the extras list to tick when specifying your Audi E-tron Sportback, but a demonstration of the new digital matrix units in action shows real innovation in a crucial yet often overlooked area.
Whereas to now headlights have evolved generally to become brighter and shine greater distances through different lighting technologies, the digital matrix headlights break away from that by using projector technology to become more than just a means of lighting the road ahead. The technology, which uses 1.3 million micromirrors that can be tilted up to 5000 times per second, is just like that used to project films; Audi says that in theory, you could play one through the headlights.
For now, it has a gimmicky side in an ability to play little light shows as you get in and out of the car, either projected onto a wall or the ground in front, depending on when you park, and customised greetings are an obvious next step.
Yet the real functional use for the technology comes when you’re on the motorway, or any other road with marked lanes, where the headlights will project a ‘light carpet’ in your lane. Within that flood of light are two rows of six chevrons to show the width of your car relative to the extremities of the lane, to help you position yourself in the centre. That could be useful if you’re travelling next to a lorry through roadworks with narrowed lanes, for example.