Audi flashing road safety signs via OLED tail lights

May 24, 2024
The German car maker now counts five models using OLEDWorks technology. The new Q6 electric SUV is the first to draw on the New York company’s second-generation offering.

OLED maker OLEDWorks has quietly strengthened its presence at Audi. The German carmaker now offers tail lights based on the Rochester, N.Y. company’s technology in five models including one that for the first time incorporates symbols communicating specific hazards to trailing drivers.

The Audi Q6 e-tron electric SUV, introduced in March, uses the second generation of OLEDWorks’ rear lights, which feature what an Audi spokesman described to LEDs Magazine as “intelligent displays.”

OLEDWorks has been talking about that capability for several years, having demonstrated it at the Las Vegas CES consumer electronics show in January 2022.

Since then, Audi has tapped OLEDWorks tail lights for several models, but until the introduction of the Q6 e-tron in March, it had not built in extra road safety features.

“In the Audi Q6 e-tron, Audi offers the second generation of digital OLED technology,” the Audi spokesperson told LEDs.  “With second-generation digital OLED rear lights, the Audi Q6 e-tron is taking light design, range of functions, and road safety to a new level.”

In a press release describing some of the lighting features in the Q6 e-tron, Audi notes that “[t]he communication light displays a specific static rear light signature with integrated warning symbols in the digital OLED combination rear light alongside the regular rear light graphics in critical driving or traffic situations.”

OLEDWorks in the past has said it would include icons that warn of conditions such as snow, ice, traffic jams, proximity, and others. It’s not clear how many of those Audi has included in the Q6 e-tron. Proximity has been included in some first-generation models.

“The second generation of digital OLED rear lights activates the communication light with warning symbols for Emergency Assist, for the RECAS (rear-end collision alert signal), when the hazard warning flashes, during an emergency call (eCall), during a breakdown call (bCall) and when the emergency stop lights are flashing,” Audi stated in the Q6 e-tron press release.

The Q6 e-tron is the latest model in which Ingolstadt-based Audi has included OLEDWorks’ Atala brand of automotive OLED tail lights.

Three weeks ago, OLEDWorks announced that Audi uses the first generation of Atala on the Q8 luxury SUV, introduced last October. Both the first generation and the new second generation (on the Q6 e-tron) offer several different geometric patterns — so-called “digital signatures” — that car owners can choose to personalize their tail lights. The first generation also has a visual proximity sign that warns trailing motorists when they get within two meters (6.6 feet) of a stopped car.

The Q8 and the Q6 bring the number of Audi models using OLEDWorks Atala technology to five. OLEDWorks has previously announced the Q5 luxury SUV and the A8 luxury sedan. The list also includes the Q7 SUV, the Audi spokesperson told LEDs.

Audi and OLEDWorks started working together in 2019.

Since then, there’s been a slow but steady buildup, going back nearly four years, when Audi began offering OLED tail lights as an option on the Q5. Audi then made OLED lights a standard feature — rather than an option — on the A8 luxury sedan in November 2021, although neither party would confirm that OLEDworks was the supplier until April 2022.

Audi builds the technology into cars in the high-end price bracket. For instance, the Q8, which has different specifications in different countries, lists at $81,800 in the U.S., £96,965 in the U.K., and €113,900 in Germany.

The Audi spokesperson declined to confirm whether Audi also still uses another OLED supplier from Asia. He also did not elaborate on whether Audi has given further consideration to charging motorists a service fee if they wish to tap the OLED tail light technology for additional services.

OLEDs are thin patches of material that light up in response to an electric current and as such can offer design advantages; by comparison, an LED is a single point of light.

MARK HALPER is a contributing editor for LEDs Magazine, and an energy, technology, and business journalist ([email protected]).

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About the Author

Mark Halper | Contributing Editor, LEDs Magazine, and Business/Energy/Technology Journalist

Mark Halper is a freelance business, technology, and science journalist who covers everything from media moguls to subatomic particles. Halper has written from locations around the world for TIME Magazine, Fortune, Forbes, the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Guardian, CBS, Wired, and many others. A US citizen living in Britain, he cut his journalism teeth cutting and pasting copy for an English-language daily newspaper in Mexico City. Halper has a BA in history from Cornell University.