BMW i8 with laser lights arrives early

6 Jun, 2014 11:11am Jordan Bishop

BMW delivers the first versions of its new i8 sports car with laser light technology earlier than expected, beating Audi to the punch

The laser light turf war raging between BMW and Audi appears to have taken one final, decisive twist.

At an exclusive ceremony in Munich yesterday evening, BMW handed over keys to the first eight i8 customers, and in doing so became the first manufacturer in the world to launch a production car featuring laser-powered headlights.

Having previewed the new technology earlier this year, the German manufacturer initially intended to launch its laser lights in August 2014, a little while after its new plug-in hybrid sports car arrived in showrooms. 

The delay was partly down to an ongoing refinement process, although BMW still expected to make automotive history as the first to debut the groundbreaking headlights.

That was before Ingolstadt-based Audi tried to steal bragging rights with its own system, announcing at the beginning of last month that the special R8 LMX would go on sale in the ‘early summer’ with laser tech.

While the i8 would still be the first series production car available with the lights, given it isn’t a limited-run model like the Audi, BMW clearly decided to beat its German rival outright.

It means BMW’s customers are the first to enjoy the benefits of laser-boost technology, which can be optioned for the i8 to boost the standard LED headlights’ range to as much as 600 metres.

As well as doubling the distance covered by the basic high beams, BMW also claims the lasers use 30 percent less energy than power-saving LEDs, take up less space inside the headlight casing and weigh less.

Alongside the lighting itself, a camera-aided adaptive system sense on-coming traffic, adjusting the range and direction of illumination to avoid dazzling oncoming drivers. This advanced set-up also responds to steering adjustments, concentrating as much light as possible in the direction of travel.