BMW Laser Headlights

Slice Through the Dark

Lasers are more efficient and offer a more natural white light

I am standing in a twilit underground lab looking at the most powerful car headlight in the world. Its source, a blue-laser diode, is 1000 times as bright as an LED but uses just two-thirds the energy.

I had to surrender my passport to see it, for I’m at BMW’s highly secure, steel-and-glass research mecca, the FIZ (for Forschungs- und Innovationszentrum, or Research and Innovation Center), an immense complex in Munich replete with workshops, clay modelers’ “caves,” and a vast wind tunnel.

I’m basking in the glow of three of BMW’s brightest lights: project founder Volker Levering, whose laser inspiration—a mental lightbulb, if you will—flashed on during a 2010 Christmas ski trip in the Alps; Stefan Weber, the current program leader; and Helmut Erdl, also among the technology’s inventors.