Have you ever heard of a Lichtkanal? No, me neither, until earlier this week when Audi shipped us down to its Ingolstadt HQ in southern Germany.

It turns out that the company’s new ‘light canal’ is a 120m-long tunnel, which is used to test new types of lighting technology and ‘camera-based lighting assistance systems’. Audi claims the tunnel is the ‘longest driveable lighting tunnel in Europe.’

The new tunnel – which goes into full operation this March – is part of a bigger department at the Ingolstadt engineering centre, which Audi calls the Lighting Assistance Centre.

The German company is taking innovation in lighting technology very seriously. It says that cutting-edge lighting technology and design is an important part of the brand’s future. Not just for "active safety" but also for "design differentiation" and "making technology visible".

The latter is hard when you have, say, an interesting mixture of materials under the car’s skin - but with lights, which are, by definition, transparent, the possibilities are wide open.

To this end, Audi has a 'head of development light/visibility’ (Dr Wolfgang Huhn), a 'head of lighting functions and innovations’ (Stephan Berlitz) and a 'head of lighting design' (Cesar Muntada Roura).