Audi is a leader in automotive lighting technology, and its close connection to design is one of the pillars of the brand's success. The state of the art is represented by the advanced digitization of OLED rear lights, paving the way for new features.
Audi is recognized as a leading brand in automotive lighting technology, and its focus on light design is one of the secrets of its success. The latest cutting edge of this technological research is the digitization of OLED rear lights, which can change the way the car communicates with its environment.
"Audi recognized the potential of using OLED technology in rear lights early on and has never stopped working on its digitization. We are the only car manufacturer to have strategically and systematically developed this lighting technology to put even more lighting functions on the road", explains Stephan Berlitz, Head of Audi Lighting Development.
Efficiency and homogeneity
Unlike LEDs, which are single points of light, OLEDs are panel radiators - which is why they are more efficient, lighter and more homogeneous. In addition, because of their strong contrast, they are gradually assuming the role of exterior displays, allowing the car to communicate. "With the digitization of our OLED rear lights, we can use the light to communicate with other road users, for example with proximity indication. In the future, we will continue to intensify how the car uses light to interact with its environment", adds Berlitz.
Audi began installing OLEDs in 2016 on the TT RS and was the first brand ever to do so. Digital OLED rear lights debuted on the Audi Q5 in 2020, and it is still the Q5 that first made the latest upgrade of this technology available.
Organic semiconductor materials: OLED lights
OLEDs - Organic Light Emitting Diodes - are lights that contain a minimum of two electrodes, at least one of which is transparent. These electrodes are made up of a great number of exceedingly thin layers of organic semiconductor materials. The layers, which are less than a thousandth of a millimeter thick (they are several times thinner than human hair), emit light by passing a low-voltage direct current at three or four volts. The color of OLEDs depends on the molecules within the light source.
OLEDs have a high degree of homogeneity, as well as a continuous and precise variability of brightness. Therefore, they do not require reflectors, light guides or similar optics, and they are efficient and lightweight; they require almost no cooling.
Freedom and customization
Other special features of OLEDs include the ability to configure them freely and to divide them into segments with precision. This offers light designers enormous freedom and allows them to define new dynamic lighting functions, as demonstrated by the very high contrast that segmented OLED lights can reach.
Thanks to the digitization of the headlights, Audi customers were the first to be able to select an individual 'signature' of the rear lights in the configurator. Specifically, the 'signature' is sent to the car's electronics, after which through the bus network the rear lights receive it and display it by controlling each individual OLED segment.
Striking and exciting
"The exterior design is the first striking element, the one that establishes the initial connection. Therefore, it must instantly convey the brand's values: emotionality, progressiveness, sportiness and quality. In this, the lights are crucial and have special significance, because they make the car recognizable even at night and at a great distance as it approaches. The lighting immediately shows what model it is, but with digitization we can go further, because the light signatures perfectly match the brand and the character of the respective model, but they also allow users to express themselves and their moods through individual sequences", says Cesar Muntada, Head of Audi Light Design.
Innovation in the DNA
"Audi holds light design in high regard because it is an important field for innovation, which is a deeply rooted part of the brand's DNA. Our goal for exterior lighting is a perfect symbiosis of the exterior’s overall shape and the progressive look of the digital eyes. After all, at first glance, a car is essentially defined by two things: the proportions of its body during the day and its lights during the night", adds Muntada.
Another important function of OLED lights is proximity indication (depending on equipment), which makes driving safer. If an A8 or Q5 stops and another vehicle (or road user) approaches within two meters, all the OLED segments are automatically activated. This makes the visible surface of the car larger, and it is obviously much easier to see it.
Toward the future
The future of OLED lighting includes even more possibilities for customization and a new dimension of communication with road users. This is made possible by the significantly increased number of segments in the digital OLED lights themselves and a higher level of connectivity of the car overall.
A future Audi, for example, will be able to detect imminent hazardous situations, such as the presence of ice, and the rear lights will warn those following. Currently, the technology only allows for two-dimensional OLED panels, but the new flexible substrates will also allow for flexible rear lights. Three-dimensionality will not only expand opportunities for communication and customization, but also allow the lights to integrate even better into the shape of the car.
Source: AUDI AG
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