Audi’s New R8 Supercar Has Frickin’ Lasers for Headlights – Wired

Posted: Thursday, May 15, 2014

The R8 LMX features a 5.2-liter V10 engine, a top speed of 198.8 mph and lasers for headlamps. Yes, lasers. Photos by Audi

Audi says the laser high beam lamps project twice as far as its LED headlamps. Photos by Audi

The R8 LMX is limited to just 99 copies, and each is slathered in a color Audi calls “ara blue.” Photos by Audi

Lots of leather, lots of Alcantara and a pair of snug racing-style seats. Pretty standard supercar fare. But did we mention it has lasers? Photos by Audi

Each headlight features a laser module that generates white light with a color temperature of 5,500 Kelvin–the perfect white light for nighttime illumination. Photos by Audi

The laser lights in the R8 LMX are derived from technology that Audi used in the R18 e-tron endurance racer. Photos by: Audi

Audi is obsessed with lighting. It was the first automaker to bring LED headlamps to the masses, then it incorporated GPS, pedestrian detection and selective dimming in its A8 sedan, essentially creating smart headlights that turn before you do.

Now the company has topped even that by introducing a car with laser headlamps. Yes, lasers.

The high-tech high-beams will be offered on the Audi R8 LMX, a limited-edition run of the bonkers R8 supercar. Audi says the laser spot lamp in the car’s high beam lamps provide significantly more light, and shines it much further ahead of the car–two things you’ll find useful when barreling through the night at felonious velocity in a 570-horsepower sports car.

Each headlight features a laser module that generates a cone of light that reaches twice as far as Audi’s LED headlight. Each module sports four laser diodes just 300 micrometers in diameter. They fire a blue laser beam with a wavelength of 450 nanometers into a phosphor converter, generating white light with a color temperature of 5,500 Kelvin–the perfect white light for nighttime illumination. The laser spot, as Audi calls it, supplements the standard LED high beam at speeds over 38 mph. A camera detects pedestrians and cars ahead and adjusts the beam so you don’t blind them.

As with so much cool stuff, the technology derives from auto racing. Audi first used laser illumination in the R18 e-tron Quattro, which raced at the 24 Hours of Le Man and elsewhere. A 24-hour race, by definition, includes running at speed through the night, making effective illumination a key component of going fast.

So far the tech is available only in the R8 LMX, which launches in Germany this summer with a base price of €210,000. No word if or when the tech might trickle down to cars the rest of us can afford.

The laser high beam illuminates significantly farther than the standard high and low beam LED lights in the R8 LMX, perfect for late-night sprints on the Autobahn. Image by Audi.

The laser spot high beam illuminates significantly farther than the standard high and low beam LED lights in the R8 LMX, making it perfect for late-night sprints on the Autobahn. Image: Audi

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