When you think about the word “matrix”, if you are anything like me, you are transported back to the revolutionary 1999 sci fi action film starring the inimitable Keanu Reeves. Green text rains down your screen, and suddenly you’re seeing things you didn’t think were possible. The world around you becomes more illuminated and suddenly it’s all so clear. Porsche’s new matrix adaptive LED headlights are coming, and while they won’t be able to gift you with the power to fight in bullet time, it’s kind of like you’ll have a new super power. While Porsche currently offers an LED headlight option for its cars, this new version is a giant leap in the direction of forward progress. This time we might actually be cheering for the machines.
Current Porsche LED headlights are a combination of 84 pixels per headlight, which act more or less like current headlights should. There’s an on/off, and there’s a high beam/low beam situation, and not much else. This new headlight features four modules of 16,536 extremely thin LED pixels. That’s over 65,000 as-thin-as-a-human-hair filament pixels per headlight! This allows for a level of adjustability and quick reaction that hasn’t been possible before. Not only are these lights much brighter and have the ability to throw light nearly 2,000 feet down the road in front of you, but they’re safer to use and less dazzling to yourself and other motorists. When you’re trawling down a country road at night and meet an oncoming car, you won’t have to fiddle with a high beam toggle anymore, or lose the side-of-the-road visibility that came with switching to low beams. It’s real trick stuff.
The joy of LED matrix is that you can shut off individual strands of light in rapid time without even having to think about it. The lights can precisely box out an oncoming car to avoid shining directly in their eyes. It can also dim a square around a car ahead of you to avoid overpowering their rear-view mirror with light from your ultra-fast German sports car. It’s one less distraction on a roadway filled with them, and it’s one less opportunity for the car ahead of you to be cursing your name, which is always a plus in my book. Beyond the trick abilities that LED lights bring, these lights are also nearly twice as bright as the current LED lighting, offering 160 lux in low beam settings and over 300 lux in high beams. While previous lights were split into high and low, this new light mixes those elements into the same module, allowing for a more finely blended light source without sharp lines and delineations.
To develop this new technology Porsche built a new ‘light tunnel’ at the company’s Weissach R&D facility. Inside a windowless two-story facility, consisting of a 100m by 15m asphalt track, Porsche has placed a fancy new goniophotometer, which is a device used for measurement of the light emitted from an object at different angles. Lots of analytic work has been completed here to make the new headlights work their best. It’s not just Porsche working on this project alone, as LED and laser diode company Nichia, headlight maker Hella/Forvia, and semiconductor manufacturer Infineon have been coming together to craft this new generation of advanced light. Critically, this new light can take in a lot more information from navigation, traffic, chassis and steering parameters to adjust where it’s aiming and how intensely each LED filament shines.
Benjamin Hummel, Manager Light Modules and Regulation head of lighting modules at Porsche:
“At 300lx, it is possible to project the high beam up to 600m. But it is not only about a certain range. You need good light distribution within the whole field, too. We achieved this with four light sources. The brightness of the center and side areas can be continuously adjusted for added roadside illumination. Greater illumination leads to better lighting performance.”
And these new headlights aren’t some far-off sci fi fantasy. Porsche’s new signature four-spot lamps are optional for the 2023 model year with the newly facelifted Cayenne. If you absolutely must have the most advanced lighting in the world, go place your Cayenne order right now.