BIRMINGHAM, MI – Hella’s industry-first LED Matrix Beam headlamp system currently is offered on only one vehicle, the topline Audi A8. But the German supplier expects that to increase to 34 models by 2018.

The technology is innovative, groundbreaking, special and award-winning, Steffen Pietzonka, Hella Lighting Group’s vice president-marketing, says at a briefing in this Detroit suburb.

But it’s also a relatively expensive option for a lighting system. Its $2,720 cost makes it tough to convince more automakers of its value.

“Car makers don’t always focus on lighting,” Pietzonka says. “Audi does, but others don’t. They are busy focusing on other things.”

The camera-based technology creates glare-fee tunnels of light, allowing drivers to continually use high beams without blinding other motorists. The camera detects up to eight different vehicles, including oncoming traffic and vehicles directly in front.

“It concentrates the high-beam lights around and between them,” Pietzonka says.

Each headlamp contains electronically and individually controlled LED units that provide millions of possible light patterns.

For example, if there are two approaching vehicles, the lighting system would mask them out, while maintaining high-beam lighting between them and to the right and left of them.

“It’s really a high-end, highly complex product,” Pietzonka says, predicting a modest adoption worldwide. “It’s not just a European thing. We see development in Asia and America.”

Hella expects Audi will offer LED Matrix Beam on more of its premium models, with some other luxury automakers to follow.

Hella research indicates the technology will be on eight vehicle models next year, seven more in 2016, another eight in 2017 and 11 more in 2018.

“It increases the price of a vehicle, but it adds safety,” Pietzonka says. “What’s the most important part of nighttime driving? Visibility.”

Automakers, not end users, are Hella’s direct customers, he says. “But we have to bring specific values to the street. We know we have to explain our products to the market, even though we are a supplier.”

One marketing obstacle advanced-lighting systems face is that shopping times and circumstances make it difficult to demonstrate features. Most consumers take test drives during the day.

“Lighting is something you experience,” Pietzonka says. “But how do you show the full effect of LED Matrix on a test drive, short of driving up north (a geographical reference to a Michigan sector short on streetlights) or to a rural area at night?”

In an effort to familiarize people with LED Matrix, Hella has created a game-based app to show a simulation of the system.

sfinlay@wardsauto.com