Test drive – New Porsche HD Matrix headlights illuminate the road intelligently

porsche hd matrix

Who thinks of the Porsche 911 thinks of the mythical engine “Flat Six“, but it would be a bit quick to forget its light signature, recognizable among all on the round headlights. If the first headlights of the 911 were based on halogen technology, this model was also a forerunner by adopting xenon headlights and then Matrix Led in the latest versions (type 992).These Matrix Led lights also had a distinctive signature with a large central bulb (low beam) surrounded by four driving lights whose brightness adapts to the external environment, 109 LEDs per optical block, a total of 218 LEDs.

911 type 992 uses Matrix LEDs.

The first 911 headlights were halogen.

Wessach, Porsche’s ultra-secret development center

To continue its development, Porsche has built its own tunnel of light to design the next headlight technologies. This is located in Wessach, Porsche’s ultra-secret research and development center located about forty minutes from Stuttgart.

Porsche Wessach tunnel light

Weissach opened in 1971 and houses 5000 people working in the design studios, wind tunnel and test benches. This is also where prototypes are designed and tested on the test track adjacent to the centre.

We had the privilege of being invited to Wessach to discover not only Porsche’s new light signature, but also this brand new light tunnel. Our hosts told us that nearly 98% of employees hadn’t had the chance to find out yet. But to enter the site, you must show your credentials, sign confidentiality agreements and, above all, leave smartphones and computers in the closet. It must be said that Wessach is teeming with prototypes that we were forbidden to photograph or even mention.

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A 100 m long asphalt light tunnel

The tunnel is built next to the drawing room and is 100 m long and 15 m wide. Its surface is covered with asphalt, like a conventional road. On the one hand, a goniometer is used to instantly measure the deviation of the integrated lighting systems on the various tested vehicles.

Porsche Wessach tunnel light

Previously, Porsche used its suppliers’ light tunnel, the length of which did not exceed 30 m. Thanks to its own tunnel, the Bavarian manufacturer can test its technologies several times in a row and instantly according to an ever-increasing list of criteria. It also helps to optimize the development by having all the ingredients at hand.

Porsche Wessach tunnel light

When technology meets design

As is now tradition, the light signature from the headlight at Porsche serves as a notable identity, as does its Flat 6 engine. In addition to its primary function, which is to see well, this system must also be seen and identified. rearview mirror on other vehicles such as on a Porsche. In addition, the headlights of the manufacturer’s competition cars have a black background, the special feature of which is to be less reflective while still being recognizable. This technology will then be adapted to the German brand’s road vehicles.

porsche hd matrix

From there to confirm that it is the technology that adapts to the design, there is only one step that the engineers of the brand did not hesitate to take. For the new light signature, the requirement from the design department was thus to develop headlights with 4 light points compared to the previous 5. It is also the Porsche 918 that gets the privilege of inaugurating this new design of headlights.

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porsche hd matrix

HD Matrix rather than laser

Still, the adoption of 4-point headlights while maintaining Porsche’s DNA has forced the manufacturer to develop the technology for its headlights. For this, the brand again relies on LEDs, with HD Matrix, which will equip the brand’s new models.

This choice differs from Audi (still in the same group) and BMW, which have chosen the laser. For Porsche engineers, laser headlights certainly offer the same range (600 m), but have the disadvantage of being expensive, heavy and, above all, potentially dangerous to the eyes in the event of an accident.

porsche hd matrix

Specifically, Porsche has four modules of 16,384 LEDs per headlight, i.e. a total of 32,768 LEDs for the two headlights. They provide an illumination of 300 lux (maximum light intensity of 2500 lumens) for a range of up to 600 meters. For comparison, the statutory lighting effect for roads (streets, main roads and motorways) varies from 15 to 50 lux.

That’s almost 16,384 LEDs per headlight.

Each headlight consists of four modules, two at the top and two at the bottom.

Each headlight consists of four modules distributed as follows:

  • a bi-functional module “ground lighting” composed of 6 LEDs (top),
  • a bi-functional module “high beam” also consists of 6 LEDs (top),
  • a 16,000 LED HD Performance module (bottom),
  • an HD Illumination module with 16,000 LEDs (bottom).

porsche hd matrix

Each of the two optical blocks is surpassed by a computer (ECU) that allows the state of each LED to be recalculated every 16 ms, according to the road configuration. To help the ECUs in their task, the latter rely on several sources of information such as the front camera (the main one), the infrared camera (optional), the chassis sensors, the steering wheel, GPS data as well as real-time highway traffic via a 5G connection.

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Porsche hd matrix build headlights

Smart headlights for a safer road

Nothing beats field experience to form an opinion on the effectiveness of these HD Matrix headlights. It is therefore at night that we take place aboard a test vehicle with the new four-point technology. The amazing thing is how quickly the headlights adapt to road conditions.

The lighting avoids glare, here under the traffic signs.

HD Matrix is ​​able to adapt to all road conditions.

In open country, the Porsche vehicle thus drives with full headlights, spraying the road and illuminating the edge sufficiently. Road signs or rare pedestrians are not dazzled thanks to the automatic brightness adjustment. As soon as a vehicle arrives in front, a shadow zone is created around it so that it does not dazzle, preventing the headlights from flashing prematurely.

porsche hd matrix

When entering a built-up area, the HD Matrix headlights automatically switch to dipped beam, assuming street lighting is sufficient. When outside, the full headlights are automatically reactivated.

On the highway and in the left lane, our vehicle remains on full headlights, but it turns off a few LEDs so as not to dazzle oncoming traffic. Finally, thanks to the coordinates from the GPS, a luminous carpet is projected in front of the car to better guide the driver. A useful feature especially in work areas. Note that this feature can be disabled.

porsche hd matrix LIGHT MAT

The contribution of the infrared camera makes it possible to be warned more quickly when pedestrians or animals are detected. Finally, the lighting also adapts automatically according to the current road laws, especially in the United Kingdom.

This night test, conducted in excellent weather conditions despite the ambient cold, pleasantly surprised us, especially the reaction speed of the HD Matrix headlights. We would have liked a little rain or snow to know the limits of the system. In fact, the Porsche engineers admitted to us that their new lighting system worked “less well” when the weather conditions deteriorated.

In any case, the experience was interesting and sets the tone for progress in lighting manufacturers. At Porsche, the new light signature not only makes it possible to create a visual identity, but also and above all to add comfort to night driving. It is still unknown whether the other manufacturers in the group will be able to benefit from these technologies in the long term, and how the competition will develop.

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