Bright & audible – For more comfort

Seeing and being seen is not everything. Making the right sound is also important in today’s cars. With its latest lighting and sound technologies, Audi is making its mark when it comes to design and safety. In particular, the latest innovations mean Audi has taken a huge leap towards achieving its goal of making mobility in general and cars in specific a whole lot more comfortable.

03/11/2021 Copy: Manfred Dittenhofer ― Photos: AUDI AG ― Graphics: Colorpong  Talking Sustainable Business Reading Time: 7 min

Talking Sustainable Business – Key Facts

  • Innovative lighting and sound technologies provide more comfort in road traffic
  • Audi sets benchmarks in terms of lighting with digital and OLED technologies
  • The distinctive Audi sound remains, even in the electric age

Audi lighting – digitally breaking through the dark

Cesar Muntada, Stephan Berlitz and Dr. Werner Thomas have one thing in common: They all work in the field of lighting at Audi. Their key place of work is 120 meters long and completely dark – the drivable underground light testing tunnel in the Audi Lighting Assistance Center at Technical Development. This is where the latest headlight and rear light technologies are developed and tested. Audi and lighting – the benchmark in the automotive industry.

Cesar Muntada, Head of Lighting Design at Audi

Cesar Muntada, Head of Lighting Design at Audi

The headlights and rear lights are among the most striking design features of a car. “Light becomes the visible expression of ‘Vorsprung durch Technik.’ We use it to give a car an unmistakable face and to sharpen the character of model and brand alike,” explains Cesar Muntada, Head of Lighting Design at Audi. Audi has brought a succession of trailblazing developments in lighting technology onto the market in recent years. One example is the digital matrix LED headlight that was first unveiled on the Audi e-tron Sportback in 2019.

Audi e-tron Sportback: Power consumption, combined*: 24–20.9 kWh/100km (NEDC); 25.9–21.1 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

Audi e-tron Sportback: Power consumption, combined*: 24–20.9 kWh/100km (NEDC); 25.9–21.1 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

Light becomes the visible expression of ‘Vorsprung durch Technik.’

Cesar Muntada, Head of Lighting Design at Audi

The right light at the right moment

Headlights fitted with this DMD technology (Digital Micromirror Device) have a small chip with about one million micromirrors that can be tilted up to 5,000 times per second with the help of electrostatic fields. This chip breaks down the light into tiny pixels as the basis for these innovative projections onto the wall or the ground. The way this technology works is similar to a video projector. The headlights illuminate the road in high resolution and support drivers with new functions such as the lane and orientation light, which help keep the vehicle in the road lane.

The digital matrix LED headlight can deliver cornering, city and highway lighting as versions of the low-beam light with ultra-high precision. The Audi e-tron Sportback 55 quattro with digital matrix LED headlights is shown above in the Audi light testing tunnel.
The digital matrix LED headlight can deliver cornering, city and highway lighting as versions of the low-beam light with ultra-high precision. The Audi e-tron Sportback 55 quattro with digital matrix LED headlights is shown above in the Audi light testing tunnel.

Audi e-tron Sportback 55 quattro: Power consumption, combined*: 24.0–21.6 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

Audi e-tron Sportback 55 quattro: Power consumption, combined*: 24.0–21.6 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

On the autobahn in Germany, the lane light generates a carpet of light in front of the vehicle, brightly illuminating its own lane and adjusting dynamically every time the vehicle changes lane. Also, the orientation light uses darker areas masked out from the light beam to show the vehicle’s position predictively. In narrow lanes, for example through roadworks, this enables the driver to assess their vehicle’s position within its lane more accurately. The system can also detect pedestrians close to the roadway and picks them out outside built-up areas with a marking light.

Stephan Berlitz, Head of Lighting Development

Stephan Berlitz, Head of Lighting Development

The development of this technology illustrates Audi’s sense of responsibility for identifying all road users. Stephan Berlitz, Head of Lighting Development: “The importance of lighting technology is fundamentally changing; its horizons are shifting from purely driver-centered safety to comprehensive external communication based on car-to-X, in other words connecting the vehicle with other road users and its environment.” Data sharing should increase traffic safety and help traffic to flow more efficiently. Within what is legally permissible, Audi could soon be using light projections to alert drivers to hazards.

The importance of lighting technology is fundamentally changing.

Stephan Berlitz, Head of Lighting Development

Personalization with organic light-emitting diodes

The new Audi Q5 and Audi Q5 Sportback can be supplied with the option of digital OLED rear lights. OLED stands for organic light-emitting diode. Audi has already been pioneering organic light-emitting diodes since 2016. Digitalization now heralds in a new age, because the technology has the potential to make road traffic even safer.

The higher segmentation of the digital OLEDs means different tail light designs are now possible. When buying their Audi Q5, customers have three tail light signatures to choose from.

The light from the digital OLEDs is extremely homogeneous. It can be dimmed continuously and achieves a very high contrast. Because the light unit does not need any reflectors, light guides or similar optical parts, it is very efficient, but low-weight and flat in design.

That also opens up a whole new realm of possibilities for Audi Design: In the future, digital OLED technology will turn the rear lights into veritable displays that will hugely increase the scope for design, customization, communication and safety.

Dr. Werner Thomas, Project Manager for OLED technology

Dr. Werner Thomas, Project Manager for OLED technology

Dr. Werner Thomas, Project Manager for OLED technology, explains: “Thanks to its shallow design and scope for flexible surface shapes, the potential of OLED technology goes beyond two rear lights: The entire rear end could become a display.” Subject to legal approval, it could be the basis for enhanced car-to-X communication.

As an example of how dedicatedly and effectively Audi works with the approval authorities, Audi was the first car manufacturer to develop and obtain approval of the turn indicator with dynamic display, which it brought to market in 2012 in the Audi R8. It improves identification especially in the road user’s peripheral vision, but is also an emotional light feature.

The entire rear end could become a display.

Dr. Werner Thomas, Project Manager for OLED technology

Audi lighting – the evolution

History 11/08/2019

Audi lighting – the evolution

How did the use of electric light develop? From the first electrically lit world’s fair in 1878 to the Audi e-tron Sportback concept that uses lighting to communicate with its environment.

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The sound – more than just noises

Visit Dr.-Ing. Stephan Gsell and Rudolf Halbmeir on their home territory and you could imagine yourself in a recording studio. Except the artist behind the microphone at Audi Technical Development is not a musician, but an Audi e-tron GT quattro.

Gsell and Halbmeir are sound designers, and the Audi sound lab is their place of work. While its walls barely reflect any sound, the floor is made from typical sound-reflecting asphalt. The engineers use this environment to program the “voice” of the Audi e-tron GT quattro. 

Audi e-tron GT quattro: Power consumption, combined*: 19.6–18.8 kWh/100km (NEDC); 21.6–19.9 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

Audi e-tron GT quattro: Power consumption, combined*: 19.6–18.8 kWh/100km (NEDC); 21.6–19.9 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

Progressive e-sounds for safety

  

Dr.-Ing. Stephan Gsell (left) & Rudolf Halbmeir, Audi sound designers

Dr.-Ing. Stephan Gsell (left) & Rudolf Halbmeir, Audi sound designers

Every electric vehicle must emit a sound to alert people to its presence – that is what EU Regulation R138 specifies. The reason? Pedestrians and cyclists might find it hard to hear an almost noiseless electric car, especially when it is traveling at low speeds.

People have become used to interpreting the sound of a combustion engine as an acoustic warning signal. The regulation is also intended to protect the interests of the partially sighted.

What is the perfect sound for an electrically powered Audi? These are the kind of questions we ask ourselves at the sound lab.

Dr.-Ing. Stephan Gsell, Audi sound designer

Sound lab

Sound lab

The EU regulation applies to all electric and hybrid vehicles. An AVAS – or Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System – can help prevent accidents involving especially pedestrians and cyclists. It works by simulating the sounds emitted between setting off and reaching a speed of 20 km/h, and also when reversing. The rules include an overall sound level of at least 50 decibels at 10 km/h, and at least 56 decibels at 20 km/h. By way of comparison, a radio playing music quietly or birdsong registers at around 50 decibels and a radio at typical indoor volume is 55 decibels. A gasoline or diesel vehicle driving past will measure about 70 decibels.

So at low speed, an electric vehicle is still much quieter than a vehicle with an internal combustion engine. At 20 km/h or more, the noise generated by the tires is easy to hear. The artificial sound for electric cars is therefore no longer required by law and is gradually faded out. From about 50 to 60 km/h, it ceases to be audible.

A sound says more than a thousand words

  

The exterior loudspeakers of the Audi e-tron GT are located towards the front of the car and at its rear end.

The exterior loudspeakers of the Audi e-tron GT are located towards the front of the car and at its rear end.

But what does an electric Audi sound like? Ultimately, it needs to be more than merely an acoustic signal for pedestrians that says: “Hey, I’m here.” The sound also needs to be modulated to indicate whether the vehicle is speeding up or slowing down.

Sound designer Rudolf Halbmeir explains: “We use a variety of volumes to achieve that, but we also modify the frequency. The sound emitted by the Audi e-tron GT is made up of over 30 different sound tracks that can be superimposed on each other. Depending on the driving situation, a variety of tracks are played – on average 15 at any given time – at a range of volumes. That’s because the brain soon starts to recognize unvarying sounds as ‘normal’ background noise, which it increasingly filters out.”

Audi e-tron GT quattro: Power consumption, combined*: 19.6–18.8 kWh/100km (NEDC); 21.6–19.9 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

Audi e-tron GT quattro: Power consumption, combined*: 19.6–18.8 kWh/100km (NEDC); 21.6–19.9 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

In addition to the AVAS that is required by law for the protection of pedestrians, the Audi e-tron GT4 is available optionally with a sound package with enhanced exterior sound and an emotional interior sound. This makes the Audi e-tron GT the first electrically powered Audi model that enables customers to define their own acoustic experience.

Two control units and amplifiers installed in the luggage compartment generate the exterior and interior sounds. The front exterior loudspeaker has a counterpart in the rear end along with two loudspeakers in the rear doors for the interior sound.

In Audi drive select, the car’s dynamic handling system, the driver can set how the e-sound is delivered. In the efficiency mode it is limited to the AVAS warning sound, which basically involves the front loudspeaker playing an appropriate sound for the vehicle up to about 50 to 60 km/h. With the comfort profile, the rear exterior loudspeaker increasingly comes into play. The exterior sound then remains active up to more than 200 km/h because it also serves to enrich the interior driving sound. In the dynamic mode both exterior loudspeakers are involved, and the interior sound now also enhances the dynamic driving experience right up to top speed.

That is because exterior sound is not all that matters: The sound inside the vehicle also needs to be right. On the Audi e-tron GT, the acoustic effect perfectly reflects the vehicle’s identity: quiet sounds when gliding smoothly along, and a vibrant sound to evoke electric power.

Audi e-tron GT quattro: Power consumption, combined*: 19.6–18.8 kWh/100km (NEDC); 21.6–19.9 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

Audi e-tron GT quattro: Power consumption, combined*: 19.6–18.8 kWh/100km (NEDC); 21.6–19.9 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

Interior and exterior sound of the Audi e-tron GT

Audi e-tron GT quattro: Power consumption, combined*: 19.6–18.8 kWh/100km (NEDC); 21.6–19.9 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

Audi e-tron GT quattro: Power consumption, combined*: 19.6–18.8 kWh/100km (NEDC); 21.6–19.9 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

This is the sound of an electric car

E-Mobility 09/17/2019

This is the sound of an electric car

What does an electric car sound like? Audi sound designer Rudi Halbmeir and Stephan Gsell show what goes into creating just the right sound. Along with artificial noises, some unusual instruments also come in to play.

Read more
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