TECH: Laser Beam Headlights Come to Audi R8

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Laser headlights have been around for a few years, but not in the US. They’re legal in Europe, but an old, outdated law on the books has kept them off American roads, until now. The Audi R8 V10 Plus Exclusive Edition is the first car with laser headlights approved for the US market.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is in charge of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards that ensure every car meets minimum requirements. The idea is to keep automakers from slacking and offering unsafe or subpar equipment. It’s a great idea and helps keep our roads safe, but technology moves fast.

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Government agencies have a tendency to move slowly. This is a case where the inability of the government to react to new technologies makes us less safe. Audi wasn’t allowed to bring its laser headlights to the US, so they worked with the technology to create a modified version of its laser headlights that passes muster with US regulators.

Each headlight contains one laser module that operates with four high intensity laser diodes. Each module bundles these diodes into a blue laser beam with a wavelength of 450 nanometers. A phosphor converter then transforms the blue laser beam into a very bright and pure white light. The R8 exclusive edition is also the first Audi vehicle to couple the laser light with dynamic front turn signals.

The laser beams will only be active at speeds of 40 mph or greater when conditions permit, so there will be times when they’re not in use. They don’t replace the vehicle’s LED high beams, but rather act as a supplement providing a low and wide beam of light for improved visibility.

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As you might expect, the Audi R8 V10 Plus Exclusive is, well, exclusive. There will only be 25 units produced with a starting price of $229,200. That will get you more than just the latest in headlight technology.

It will be available only in Quantum Gray with 20-inch 10-spoke Y-design wheels, carbon sideblade with Solar Orange stripe, steering wheel with Signal Orange 12 o’clock marker, customized illuminated door sills, fixed backrest racing seats, carbon ceramic brakes, carbon fiber rear diffuser, and fixed rear wing spoiler. And, of course, all the status that comes along with driving a limited edition car that costs as much as a decent house.

Nicole Wakelin

Nicole Wakelin