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Audi Future Lab: Aesthetics

A vehicle’s lights are the first things we see when it drives towards us (especially at night), they are our only means of communication on the road both for oncoming traffic and those behind us. They complete a car’s design, they give it a face, a personality. They are the window to the car’s very soul and being; and Audi understands that. 

To look into someone’s eyes is to make a connection to really comprehend and be involved with what that person is saying and trying to convey to you. A vehicle’s headlights are no different and can convey an array of messages and make the same sorts of connections. Aesthetics play a huge role in the connection made with vehicular headlights, and that’s what I flew to Germany to learn all about in the bowels of Audi’s testing facility. 

The soul of an Audi 
As I stepped into the 120-metre matte-black tunnel in their Light Assistance Centre under the belly of the Audi Forum in Ingolstadt, Germany, I was once again reminded how meticulous and specific the design of an Audi vehicle can be, and is. From top to bottom, inside and out, every aspect of an Audi is honed, crafted, and birthed with passion and a desire to create not only a functional and high-performing vehicle, but also a stunning work of art. 

After nearly 3.5hrs of nothing but lighting technology information provided to me in German in the dark recesses of the light-testing tunnel, I feel like I could go on for days about what Audi’s done and will do for vehicle lighting. Instead, I’ll stick to a few key points, namely aesthetics in this installment. 

The look of well-lit love
Audi headlights are things of beauty, and they are also instantly recognizable. There’s no denying an Audi is coming your way, as their signature LED daytime running lights are now synonymous with the brand. 

Designers at Audi create characters, not cars -- and we’re not talking Disney-character cars, either. As I watched one of the Audi Exterior Designers sketch the front end of the brand new A8, then the TT, and various other Audi family members, it because staggeringly clear how important the headlights are in creating the look and feel of an Audi product. 

Looking at the brand new Audi A8 with it’s newly angled LED daytime running lights and integrated, 3-dimensial Matrix LEDs, the appearance is commanding and superior, as well as highly functional. The newly designed LED daytime running lights now point more to the middle grille and focus in on the Audi rings, showcasing the brand’s logo and pointing anyone who looks in the A8’s face to the brand’s instantly recognizable quad rings. 

Emotional design 
Audi’s done more than just integrate lasers and LEDs into their headlights and taillights, they’ve created three-dimensional components that are elemental in completing the look and feel of each Audi. For example, the Matrix LED highbeams “dance” when they are turned on and off. They open as opera-house curtains do, sweeping either right or left. This allows the lights to speak to us as owners, and to those on the road around. They send a message, they toy with our emotional side and they become something real and tangible. 

These three-dimensional elements on each Audi are painstakingly designed from the inside out. From LED motherboards produced in white and gold instead of green, with white casings and wiring, along with actual aluminum casings and even visible cooling elements in the Audi Q3’s LED headlights, the latter are but a small sampling of how the devil truly is in the details, and Audi’s done a helluva good job so far. 

More than light-emitting diodes
While the newly designed A8’s Matrix LEDs won’t quite make the leap to North America, when we eventually do get said technology (along with the freakin’ lasers – more soon), the face of Audi will once again change the face of the automotive world, and for the better. 

With the hopeful future integration of OLEDs in headlights and taillights, along with lasers, the possibility for animation and dynamism becomes feasible, once again upping the aesthetic ante, along with functionality. 

Audi’s dedication to lighting aesthetics and design is as fervent as its desire to produce performance-driven vehicles, and it was never made more clear to me than when I was face-to-face with the engineers and designers who’ve spent countless hours staring into the souls of Audis across the lineup until just the right connection is made.