For those unaware, the BMW i8 is coming soon. The i8 is a futuristic-looking sports car that utilizes both a gasoline and an electric motor. The i8 is next in a series of performance hybrids that are slowly trickling down in price. i8 is more than just a performance car for BMW, it is a halo car used to demonstrate the latest technology that will eventually make its way down the entire range. BMW isn’t the only company working on this technology. Audi unveiled their Sport Quattro concept’s laser lights at the 2014 International CES. It appears that BMW is going to be Audi to the first production vehicle. Since this technology will eventually make it into many vehicles, lets take a look at how these manufacturers can safely implement lasers into their vehicles to improve visibility.
The concept is relatively simple. There are blue lasers mounted in with the LED high beam headlights on the BMW i8. When the high beams are activated, the lasers shoot as a beam towards the rear of the headlight housing. The laser beams will then make contact with a projector that spreads the light out and provides a wide area of coverage. The projector fundamentally breaks the laser beam, and produces just bright light as a result. For vehicles already equipped with LED headlights, the technology works similarly.
The advantage of using a laser for a headlight is that the range of visibility is much higher. The high beams with the laser light will be able to provide a driver visibility of more than 1/4 mile down the road. Since they are fed through a projector, the light also had a distinct cutoff that prevents oncoming drivers from being blinded by the extremely bright light. One final advantage is the manufacturer’s; the laser projectors are much smaller than LED projectors, which gives designers more flexibility in designing the headlights on future vehicles.
Popular Mechanics has an excellent video describing the fundamentals of laser lights.
Unfortunately due to US legislation, laser headlights are not currently allowed on vehicles sold in this country. We are sure that both Audi and BMW are pushing lawmakers to allow this technology on future vehicles, because they believe the safety benefits are huge. We agree with them. If the legislation is not changed by September, when the i8 ships, the vehicle will still have LED headlights for both the low and high beams. That technology is still brighter and safer than standard halogen light bulbs.
For more information about all the different types of headlight technologies, check out CNET’s informative video while we wait for laser lights to be approved for sale in the United States.