Audi, BMW play laser tag on high-beams

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In the latest round of technological one-upmanship involving German luxury brands, Audi and BMW each claim to be the first to market with high-beam laser headlights.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, Audi r&d chief Ulrich Hackenberg declared that Audi would be "the first car brand to put laser light into production." In February, BMW said that its i8 plug-in hybrid would be the first series production car with laser high-beams.

So who gets bragging rights? In late July, Audi will begin delivering its limited-edition R8 LMX with laser lights in Europe. All together, 99 units of the $285,000 supercar will be delivered to customers.

But BMW claims to be first because it delivered eight i8 models fitted with laser lights to specially selected customers on June 5.

Still, the i8 won't arrive in European showrooms in volume until this fall, and laser high-beams can't even be ordered yet because a price for the option has not been announced. Lacking a price, those first eight customers got their laser lights for free.

The laser high-beams on both models offer a bright white light that extends about twice as far as LED high-beams. Because of their intensity, they only work above 37 mph -- and when sensors detect no other light ahead. The lasers can't be used to flash, and, indeed, won't be offered in the United States because they far exceed brightness standards.

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