Lights are some of the most fundamental safety technology on cars. They allow us to drive at night. They signal the people behind us that we’re braking. But could we do better? Could we leverage lasers and LEDs to signal more information than “my headlights are on” and “STOP!” Audi thinks so.
The German car maker has released a series of new car light concepts that look straight out of Hollywood. The most shocking may be the laser tail light. The word “laser” is not just some marketing gimmick. Rather, the tail lights shoot real laser beams out toward the ground. This opens the door for additional indicators on the road’s surface, and as lasers glow more brightly in vapor, it solves the whole visibility in fog issue.
Another rear-end concept is what Audi calls the Swarm. It turns the car’s rear lights into a giant unibrow-style display. “Innumerable” points of light swim through the image like fish. What’s neat, though, is that this school can signal all sorts of information about the car’s movement. Rather than turn signals and brakes, the Swarm depicts movement as a gradient. Sure it leans left or right with turns, but the Swarm also accelerates with the speed of the car, depicting the otherwise intangible velocity of the traffic flow. It’s basically an abstract infographic for driving.
With Audi’s final concept, OLED paneling, it’s probably harder to make an argument for practicality. We haven’t even tamed the technology in televisions, yet Audi imagines an OLED exterior coating that’s just a few thousandths of a millimeter thick. Coupled with sensors, it would acknowledge a driver as they walked to a car, trailing them with a stream of prismatic lighting all the way to the door handle. As to how well such a finish could handle scrapes, keys, hail, and the inevitable gawkers who would poke at it when you weren’t looking–well, let Audi worry about that. You just work on sewing some OLEDs into a leather jacket to match.