German luxury auto marques have been waging an all-out technology war, working overtime to beat each other to the punch in areas like autonomous driving and infotainment. A smaller but still notable theater of the war pits the brands against each other in developing high-tech lighting solutions. After mastering LED technology, BMW and Audi raced last year to release the world's first production car with laser lighting, and now they're set to battle it out in OLEDs. Audi will launch the latest offensive in September, when it reveals its first OLED Matrix-equipped concept car.
Audi fancies itself the "leading brand in automotive lighting technology" and it sees a real future in OLED technology. BMW surely would disagree with the first part of that statement, but it seems to agree with the latter, having showcased the OLED taillight-equipped Vision Future Luxury concept at last year's Beijing Motor Show.
Audi has been working on OLED taillights for years. It's now ready to follow up the artistic OLED Swarm taillight with a more production-ready taillight design it calls Matrix OLED. The Frankfurt show car will be the first concept car to wear the new lights.
The automaker explains that its OLED technology offers several advantages over other light technologies, including LED. Its Matrix OLED taillights provide flat, homogenous light with continuously variable dimming. They require less cooling and don't need reflectors or light guides, ensuring lightweight, efficient performance. The OLED lights can also be organized into different color and brightness subgroups, opening up new lighting design possibilities.
Audi promises fast switchover times and clean, precise borders between lights of different groups.
Audi is still perfecting its OLED technology and plans to replace today's thin glass sheet OLEDs with flexible plastic films that can be shaped into new, interesting three-dimensional light structures. Increases in light density will allow for OLED brake lights and turn signals.
The company has not revealed what car will wear the OLED lights, but they are expected to debut on an electric crossover concept in Frankfurt previewing a future model scheduled for production in early 2018. An electric concept car seems like the perfect show vehicle for highlighting an all-new, cutting-edge lighting technology, though Audi could save the lights for a separate show car.
Gizmag will be on the floor of the IAA Cars 2015 Frankfurt show starting on September 15. We'll have more details about Audi's concept car(s) and other new debuts and technologies.