Headlights & DRL

Headlight technology has come a long way since the early days of automotive lighting, evolving from basic incandescent bulbs to sophisticated LED, matrix LED, and laser headlights.

BMW i7 headlights

These advancements have significantly improved headlights’ performance, efficiency, and safety, allowing for better visibility on the road and enhanced driving experiences. This article will explore the different types of car headlight technology used, focusing on LED headlights, matrix LED headlights, laser headlights, adaptive headlights, and daytime running lights (DRLs).

Light is where legacy auto-makers like Audi, BMW, Mercedes, and more have kept an advantage over new automakers like Tesla & BYD.

The description for head lights i separated in to daytime running lights and low/high beam.

Daytime Running Lights (DRLs)

Daytime running lights (DRLs) are a type of automotive lighting that is designed to improve the visibility of vehicles during daytime driving. They are typically low-intensity lights that are automatically activated when the vehicle is in motion, even when the headlights are not turned on.

The main purpose of DRLs is to increase the visibility of vehicles on the road, making them more noticeable to other drivers and pedestrians. This can help reduce the risk of daytime accidents, especially in situations where visibility may be compromised, such as during fog, rain, or glare from the sun.

DRLs are usually located in the front of the vehicle, and they can be implemented using different technologies, including LED, halogen, or incandescent bulbs. However, LED technology has become the most common choice for DRLs due to its energy efficiency, long lifespan, and compact size.

DRLs can also be combined with other lighting technologies, such as adaptive headlights or matrix LED headlights, to further enhance the safety and performance of the lighting system. For example, some DRLs can automatically adjust their brightness or direction based on driving conditions, helping to optimize visibility and minimize glare for other road users.

In many countries, DRLs have become a mandatory safety feature on vehicles, and they are regulated by specific laws and regulations. These regulations may specify the positioning, brightness, color, and functionality of DRLs to ensure their effectiveness in improving visibility and safety on the road.

Some models lets you configure the design of DRL.

Audi Q4 e-tron DRL personal style 1

Audi Q4 e-tron DRL personal style 2

Audi Q6 e-tron DRL with configurable signature

Low/High beam headlights

High/low beam lights are also known as headlights, which are the main lighting devices on the front of a vehicle that help the driver see the road and their surroundings at night or in low-visibility conditions. They have two modes: high beam and low beam. High beam lights are brighter and illuminate a larger area, but they can also cause glare to other drivers. Low beam lights are dimmer and illuminate a smaller area, but they reduce glare and are more suitable for urban driving.

Most EVs offer sensors that automatically shift between low and high beams depending on traffic.

Different technologies are used for low/high beams. They are explained below.

LED Headlights

LED (Light Emitting Diode) headlights have become the standard in modern vehicles due to their numerous advantages. LED headlights are known for their energy efficiency, long lifespan, and compact size, making them ideal for automotive applications. In addition, they produce a bright and crisp light output that closely resembles natural daylight, providing excellent visibility on the road.

LED headlights also offer flexibility in design, allowing for various shapes and styles that can enhance the aesthetics of a vehicle’s front-end appearance. In addition, they can be used for low beam, high beam, and fog lights, providing versatile lighting solutions for different driving conditions. LED headlights also have faster response times than traditional bulbs, enabling quicker illumination and better reaction to changing road conditions.

Tesla Model 3 headlights

Another significant advantage of LED headlights is their durability. They are more resistant to vibration, shock, and temperature changes, making them highly reliable for long-term use. LED headlights also consume less power than traditional bulbs, improving vehicle energy efficiency.

Matrix LED Headlights

Matrix LED headlights, also known as adaptive LED or pixel headlights, represent the next level of headlight technology. They use an array of individually controllable LEDs that the light controller selectively turns on or off to create precise and adaptive lighting patterns.

Matrix LED headlights can automatically adjust the light distribution based on various factors, such as the vehicle’s speed, driving conditions, and surroundings.

Matrix Headlights dimming for oncoming traffic

Matrix LED headlights detect oncoming or preceding vehicles and selectively dim or switch off specific LEDs to avoid glare while maintaining maximum illumination in other areas. This feature lets the driver enjoy improved visibility without disturbing other road users, making night driving safer and more convenient.

Some of the newest generation Matrix LED headlights offer visual effects to help driver, like the image below showing that the lights can show information on the road. Mercedes call this Digital Light while Audi calls it Digital Matrix. It uses a device from projectors that let them controls million of pixels.

Audi Q8 e-tron Digital Matrix LED

Or it can be used to show just cool effects.

Audi Q8 e-tron Digital Matrix LED

Laser Headlights

Laser headlights are the latest innovation in automotive lighting technology, offering even more advanced performance compared to LED and matrix LED headlights. Laser headlights use lasers to produce light that is then focused through a lens to create an ultra-bright and highly concentrated beam of light.

One of the main advantages of laser headlights is their exceptional brightness. They can produce light that is significantly brighter than LED headlights, allowing for better visibility at longer distances. Laser headlights also have a longer lifespan and consume less power compared to traditional bulbs, making them more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly.

Laser headlights can also be combined with other technologies, such as adaptive beam control and camera-based sensors, to create highly sophisticated lighting systems. For example, laser headlights can be used to project information, such as navigation cues or traffic signs, directly onto the road surface, providing an augmented reality display that can assist the driver in navigating and improving driving safety.

Adaptive Headlights

Adaptive headlights, also known as dynamic or swiveling headlights, are designed to automatically adjust the direction and intensity of the headlight beam based on the vehicle’s speed, steering angle, and driving conditions. Adaptive headlights can provide better illumination around curves and corners, improving visibility and safety during nighttime or low-light driving.

There are different types of adaptive headlights, including those that use mechanical actuators to physically swivel the headlight housing, and those that use LED or matrix


The below video show how the lights works on Audi e-tron GT inlcuding laser lights, matrid Leds, curve lights ++

Audi Q6 e-tron with DRL

Audi Q6 e-tron with low beam (DRL dimmed)

Audi Q6 e-tron with high beam LED Matrix and low beam modules active (DRL dimmed)

Continue with rear lighting or go back to article overview

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