On or off. It is in the nature of everything digital that only two states are allowed. With car lights, of all things, bits and bytes now do the opposite: the headlight becomes a projector, the rear light a display. Both approaches allow the light distribution to be controlled almost at will, and should not only increase safety when driving at night, but also make your brand more recognizable. Digitization in headlights began years ago with matrix LEDs. The high beam is generated by one to two dozen individually controllable light-emitting diodes in such a way that the light cone fades out oncoming vehicles or vehicles driving ahead, which was previously only possible with complex mechanical devices. More than 140 vehicle models from various manufacturers, also in the volume segment,are now on the road with Matrix LED headlights.

The next level of innovation is only available at Audi and Mercedes, and only in a few models there. Instead of individual light-emitting diodes, micromirrors provide any variable light distribution. The technology of professional video projectors is well known. The focus is on a chip that is currently only manufactured by Texas Instruments and which experts call the “Digital Micromirror Device” (DMD). Around 1.3 million mirrors, each about eight micrometers in size, are housed in an area the size of a thumbnail. Each mirror can be controlled separately by an electrostatic field via the chip attached underneath.

Depending on the alignment, the mirror sends the light emitted by three LEDs mounted under the headlight lens either forwards through the optics onto the road or into a light collector. The latter is nothing more than a black plastic box that absorbs all light. Since the mirrors vibrate at a frequency of 5000 Hertz, it would be technically possible to use such a spotlight to throw complete black and white films onto the garage wall.

In fact, both premium manufacturers are doing something similar. When the driver opens the door, it rains stars or lines and rings merge. However, these animations last exactly three seconds, this duration is compatible with the approval regulations. Assistive functions, which are made possible by the fine light distribution, are more important. Mercedes relies on warnings that appear on the road, among other things. If a red traffic light or a stop sign is approached too quickly, a white triangle appears on the roadway - provided the camera behind the windshield has correctly captured the situation. The fact that the warning sign is quite inconspicuous is not only due to the fact that there is no red light available. Already during the development it was clear due to the road traffic regulations,that the photographs may in no way have the character of official traffic signs.

Mercedes expert Gerolf Kloppenburg says: “We can imagine a lot more for the future because the technical possibilities exist.” Audi is for the time being completely foregoing the corresponding functions.

A carpet of light that both Audi and Mercedes roll out when driving on the motorway at night is helpful.

The Stuttgart-based company designed it as a field the size of one's own vehicle, which in motorway construction sites - and only there - marks one's own position in the lane.

Audi, on the other hand, illuminates its entire lane brighter than the rest and shows its own position in it as arrows, the distance between which corresponds exactly to the dimension from outside mirror to outside mirror.