BMW i8 and Audi R18 e-tron Racer Introduce Laser Headlights

Just as carmakers such as Mercedes-Benz and others are touting LED headlights as an improvement over HID, Audi and BMW have one-upped the game with a pure-light solution – lasers.

Lasers offer as much as twice the visibility range of a conventional light with five-times the brightness of previous technology, says BMW of the optional upgrade over the i8′s standard LED headlights.

At the same time, the laser beam is controlled so as not to blind oncoming drivers or passersby – though no doubt staring into them is not recommended.

The laser diodes are 100 times smaller than other light-emitting surfaces, and in short, these are some amazing headlights.

Audi R18 e-tron quattro LMP1 race car with laser headlights.

Audi R18 e-tron quattro LMP1 race car with laser headlights.

Of its tech, Audi says it uses a blue laser beam which backlights a yellow phosphorus crystal lens through which the light beam is then emitted.

The mix of yellow and blue equals white.

“This new light source provides even more homogenous lighting of the road,” says the automaker of the R18 hybrid track racer’s pioneering effort.

Between the two German car makers, BMW says it is the first to introduce laser light for production car headlights, and these are only known to be available on its pending i8 plug-in sports hybrid.

BMW has been chronicling its laser light project for the past couple of years in anticipation of the i8 launch, and we’ve posted a video done by Paul Tan and one posted Dec. 18 by BMW for more info.

In Audi’s case, only the R18 e-tron quattro race car is featuring laser light technology, with no production cars yet known to be getting it, but this ought to be a matter of time.

“By using this new lighting technology Audi is setting yet another milestone at Le Mans,” said Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, Member of the Management Board for Technical Development of AUDI AG, at the official presentation of the new R18 e-tron quattro. “Laser light will also open up completely new possibilities for our production models in the future. Once more, motorsport at Audi accelerates a new technical development for our customers.”

Audi laser light tech.

Audi laser light tech.