Audi is no stranger to innovation. The slow but steady electrification of its fleet, drool-worthy features like xenon-gas adaptive headlights and so much more — it’s a brand that doesn’t stop searching for the next big thing. For 2021, that big thing is video projector headlights, AKA Digital Matrix LED headlights.
What are these video projector headlights all about?
Audi’s Digital Matrix LED headlights are more than just headlights. They’re also video projectors. You can call them by their nickname, DMLs. While we did casually see them at the start of the 2020 model year, the 2021 Audi e-tron Sportback and e-tron SUV (two of Audi’s electric vehicles) will have the DMLs.
So here’s how it works.
For each headlight, an LED works in tandem with something called micromirrors. There are actually 1.3 million of them, so the micromirrors are a huge part of the puzzle. These millions of micromirrors effectively reflect the LED light before projecting it at rapid speed (a maximum of 5,000 times per second, to be precise).
You’ll see this technology in cinema projection, namely the Texas Instruments DLP projectors. While it’s been done before, it’s never been used to light the way for a vehicle. As a result, these video projector headlights are truly revolutionary.
Why opt for Audi’s Digital Matrix LED headlights?
For now, the only people who will get to savor the video projector headlights are Audi’s e-tron customers. But it’s possible the make will expand the technology for a more refined and precise headlight experience across the board.
Unlike projections in movie theaters, the Digital Matrix LED headlights are monocolor. The cool thing about them, however, is the animation effect you get when parked against a wall or garage door. Turn on the e-tron and you’ll see an Audi logo in LED light right across the way. Turn your car off and you’ll see the same until you lock up. The Audi logo is just one of five animations to choose from.
How much do the Audi e-tron models cost?
For 2021, the Audi e-tron SUV ranges in price from $66,995–$80,195. The higher price reflects the Prestige trim. The e-tron Sportback of the same year costs anywhere from $70,145–$83,345.
Clearly, you’re not going to invest in a car just to get some fancy video projector headlights, but the Digital Matrix LED headlights are a sweet touch for someone who’s already considering splurging on a luxury electric vehicle. It’s not a life changing feature, or even something that really improves the quality of the ride. But it is cutting edge (kind of like the upward-swinging rear doors of the Tesla Model X). For many drivers, it’s bits like this that make the investment in a luxury EV worthwhile.