Blog: Graeme RobertsOld dog, new trick from Audi

Graeme Roberts | 14 August 2013

LEDs give today

LEDs give today's car designers lighting options that were just a dream in the 1960s

Colleague Glenn Brooks' product eye alighted on a press release from Audi today - you're supposed to be on holiday, GB - announcing some new LED headlight tricks for the revamped A8. That prompted some grinding in just-auto's resident Ancient of Days' memory banks - ain't we seen sequential turn signals somewhere before?

'Course we have; there's rarely much that's really, really new in the autobiz. Ford used them - at the back only - on various '60s and '70s models - I'm thinking Thunderbird and the Mercury Cougar.

Back then, as few as three tungsten bulbs illuminated in sequence in the direction of intended travel. US-market cars then had red lenses for rear turn indicators (now designers can also use amber and sometimes switch back and forth at facelift time) so sharing the flashers' filaments with the brake lights added complexity to the electromechanical controllers used for the job.

Audi revived and updated the idea, initially for its R8 sportscar, around a year ago and is now bringing the technology to the A8 luxury sedan, front and rear. The development of LEDs and sophisticated microchips has allowed technology in headlamp units the Detroit designers five decades back could only dream of.

An old idea, yes, but the latest execution is very clever.

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