Guess who really likes winning Le Mans?
Everyone! Every single person who has ever competed there cherishes a single win with the passion of an Oscar winner.
But guess who has really, really developed a taste for winning Le Mans, after more than a decade as the front-runner?
The serious gentlemen over at Audi Motorsport.
Is this an odd introduction for an article about new laser lighting shown at CES this week? The new "laser" lighting joins a long list of other Audi names for its headlights, including Matrix and Swarm.
AUTO LIGHTING TECH - 2014 and Beyond
But why not just use cool LEDs for everything up front? Very tricky to do, and cost-prohibitive. Any wattage of LEDs are typically far too weak to compete with bi-xenon lamps for headlight quality versus a xenon bulb.
This is an important fact. Xenon or HID headlights are ridiculously, obscenely brighter than current LED technology. Ask a scientist the ratio, but in my experience, if you put an LED bulb in a projector beam headlight, you will get only 1% of the light output a xenon will provide.
Halogen headlights: terrible output, failure-prone, heavy electric draw
Low-power white LEDs: simple accent lighting, the classic line of white LEDs that began with the A6 12 years ago.
Good at helping others see you when coming in the dark, but bad at helping you see them until you are within 15 feet or so.
HID Strengths: great light output, able to run both low and high beams via electric shutters that reposition themselves at the flip of the column stalk.
Also a bit pricey
Failure-prone due to quality inconsistencies
Demanding on electric system,
Can seriously electrocute you (to death) if you touch its wiring setup any time it has been on recently
Can burn a car if installed wrong
Matrix LED: a way of using LED light-bulbs in computer-managed ways. The system knows when it needs 34 LEDs lit on the left, and 37 lit on the right (for example) depending on traffic
OLED "Swarm" - Embedded lighting elements in paint require no light assemblies for taillights and corner lighting
Laser Headlights: Audi-speak for a new way of managing the LED light output setup with internal, mirrored refractions that are supplemented and brightened selectively by lasers.
For the latest laser light up front, the actual lasers themselves will be most helpful for range-finding or changing the mood up front, per the red-glowing R18 below.
In back, more potential uses exist to help with parking or safety.
In conclusion, the latest laser light show at Audi actually seems like a shadow game. A distraction.
Audi has made much of its new Le Mans car, which will keep the same name for 2014.
But what it is quietly not sharing is how different the 2014 R18 actually is when you look beyond the flashy lights up front. This car is seriously different from last year's car.
- Surfboard-sized a front splitter plate
- new-looking cut-outs above the front wheels
- completely new rounding and ground-effects in lower rear areas
- completely new, tri-wing horizontal stabilizers on the rear wing (with free-standing elements not seen before either)
2014's Le Mans is going to be a battle among brothers, to be sure.
2014 Audi R18 e-tron quattro - Laser Lighting