Lighting pioneer Audi - All about the next generation of Lighting technology OLED

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Digital OLED Technology, the next generation of a lighting technology made its debut in the Audi Q5 in June 2020. With organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), Audi was a pioneer as far back as in 2016. The new technology promises to improve road safety and is the first to allow for personalisation of the taillight signature.

Dr. Werner Thomas, OLED technology project manager at Audi, explains:“Headlight technology has seen a rapid evolution at Audi in recent decades. In addition, we have been decisively driving the development of rear-lighting systems.”
The latest milestone achievement: now the brand is the first automobile manufacturer to digitise the taillights.

Why does Audi focus on OLED technology?

OLED light sources are panel radiators – unlike point light sources such as LEDs using semiconductor crystals.

The benefits of OLEDs: Their light is extremely homogeneous. It is infinitely dimmable and achieves very high contrast. It can be split into segments and the segments are individually controllable and can develop diverse levels of brightness, with minimal gaps between them.

The lighting unit does not require any reflectors, optical fibres or similar optics. This makes OLED units very efficient, lightweight and flat, which considerably increases design freedom.

An OLED lighting element is just one millimetre thin, while conventional LED solutions require much greater installed depths of 20 to 30 millimetres. The energy requirement of an OLED is once again significantly lower than that of LED optics if the latter are to achieve similar homogeneity.

Audi’s OLED technology made its production debut in the taillight of the Audi TT RS in 2016. Up to now, Audi models using OLED lighting technology have had up to four individually controllable, complex lighting segments that could be used for an individual, defined lighting design.

What benefits do Audi’s new digital OLEDs offer?

The larger number of individually controllable segments can now be randomly activated, with continuous variability of brightness.

In the Q5, three tiles of six units each,18 segments per lamp, are currently used. The high precision and great variability offer light designers a wealth of opportunities, using just one type of hardware.

When opting for digital OLED technology there's a choice of three signatures in the taillights. In the 'dynamic' Audi drive select mode, the lamps additionally switch to another signature.

Animation effects such as coming-home/leaving-home lighting scenarios can be implemented, plus the dynamic flashing light has been integrated in the new lamp units as well.

How exactly do digital OLEDs differ from established OLED technology?

“Up to now, we have been using OLED segmentation with the Audi TT RS and A8 for designing signature lighting. This has changed with the Q5,” says OLED technology project manager Dr. Werner Thomas. “Here the taillights turn into a kind of display on the outer shell, which will provide us with ample opportunities and prospects in terms of design, personalisation, communication and safety going forward.”

The year 2020 marks the threshold of a new age: a pure medium for signal functions is now additionally becoming a medium for displaying diverse types of content.

How do digital OLED lamps improve road safety?

In the new Q5, Audi has implemented a proximity detection feature for the versions using digital OLED taillights. When another road user approaches a stationary Q5 from the rear within less than two metres, all the OLED segments light up.

When the Q5 starts to move, it returns to the original light signature. This is just an initial example of the automobile’s car-to-x communication with its surroundings.