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Digital Matrix Light in the Audi E-Tron Sportback: Lane departure warning made of light

Tobias Sagmeister /Audi
Digital Matrix Light in the E-Tron Sportback
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I n November is at 4 : 45 In the morning even in California's metropolis Los Angeles there is no trace of the sun. Roads that are wet in some areas show that this day should bring less light, even after sunrise - it actually rained Light, the effect is less noticeable, ”he says regretfully when we meet around 5:00 am at a less attractive parking lot 10 minutes from downtown. The 'effect' should be the new Digital Matrix Light from Audi in the E-Tron Sportback while driving on the highway at night. Given the single-digit temperatures and the night is drawing to a close, we quickly get into the all-electric SUV coupé, which is currently celebrating its world premiere at the Los Angeles Auto Show and which is already standard on the inside, especially without looking at the interior of the normal E-Tron to distinguish.

Guidelines from light

Berlitz routinely steers the quiet and brisk moving electric car out of town. As soon as the cameras of the assistance systems detect lane markings, a discreet, but clearly recognizable carpet of light shines ten meters in front of the car, which is miraculously always as wide as the lane and even curves. In it, two-line dark arrows, whose shape is reminiscent of the brand logo of the Californian oil company Chevron, mark the width of the E-Tron including its exterior camera mirrors.

Berlitz has no trouble following the carpet of light at the wheel It is also easy to see from the front passenger seat that the lighting is a much more pleasant lane departure warning system than the usual systems with steering impulses, warning tones or shaking. Of course only at night. During the day the carpet of light is too weak and imperceptible.

No glare, no distraction for others

Stephan Berlitz once steers the chevron stripes to the right edge of our lane to demonstrate how the dimensions correspond exactly to the edges of the arrows. The driver of the truck next to us apparently has our approachperceived and steers his truck a little to the right within its lane. The light field ends about 60 meters in front of us. It anticipates a change of lane on our part and already spreads to the neighboring lane in order to then withdraw harmoniously from the previously traveled lane. An amazing, but intuitively understandable effect.

When driving within marked lanes, the DML creates a carpet of light within the lane as well as dark arrows that mark the vehicle width .

If a vehicle in front of us changes to our lane with a smaller distance, the light field shortens at lightning speed so that it is always below the The bumper of the vehicle in front ends. He shouldn't even notice the play of light. Only the occupants of the E-Tron should use them without distracting or irritating other road users. This was particularly important to the registration authorities and has succeeded without reservation, as Berlitz proudly explains.

Integrated pedestrian detection

However, the approval for the USA is still missing. Granting them is not ruled out, but in general the traffic legislation in the USA, especially when it comes to light, comes from the 1960s. In general, the US authorities would be very skeptical if you told them that you wanted to simulate road markings - after all, that was one of the tasks of the road operator. In addition, they placed little value on good car lights. Most of the vehicles here still have classic halogen headlights, while a lot has happened in Europe in recent years. According to Berlitz, the effect is clearly visible: In the USA, the proportion of fatal accidents in the dark has remained practically the same, while in Europe it has decreased significantly.

Audi's DML also provides more safety through good illumination and the fading out of oncoming traffic from the cone of the high beam and even from pedestrians. DML can mark this with targeted light points at about ankle height without dazzling. Nevertheless, this helps the driver not to miss nearby pedestrians.Fortunately, nobody is walking on the highway, so we cannot try out the function this morning.

Light games for entertainment

The entertaining features of the DML, however, can. To do this, Stefan Berlitz heads for another parking lot. After pressing the start /stop button, the LEDs project animated graphics and the Audi e-tron logo onto the opposite wall. If they do not exist, the play of light on the asphalt in front of the E-Tron can be admired; in tight parking spaces they could be displayed somewhat distorted on the rear of the vehicle in front; Stefan Berlitz has something to do with bright Audi lettering on cars from competing brands. What kind of animations the E-Tron plays when greeting or saying goodbye can be selected in the infotainment settings menu.

Tobias Sagmeister /Audi
The chip from Texas Instruments is just the size of a postage stamp.

The animations will be used from mid-2020 to build E-Tron buyers who are willing to pay around 4,000 euros for them. But they are also good to illustrate how powerful the system is. It works like a projector, but has to produce the videos itself. The core is a postage stamp-sized chip from Texas Instruments on which 1.3 million small mirrors change their direction of reflection under piezoelectric control. And that 5,000 times a second. If you direct the light coming from a strong LED source into an absorber instead of into the lens, dark areas appear in the image on the street. The whole thing is controlled by a central computer that is integrated into the unit for the assistance systems. They also provide information on lane markings, other road users' distances or speed.


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