When it's unveiled, OLED will be the third type of lighting technology to be employed by Audi for its matrix headlights, which are able to dim or shut off specific lighting clusters to avoid blinding pedestrians or on-coming traffic.
While LEDs (light emitting diodes) are point light sources constructed from semiconducting crystals, OLEDs are flat. According to Audi, in automotive lighting applications OLED don't require reflectors, light guides or similar optical elements. They're also efficient, light and require very little cooling.
At present the main use for OLEDs, or organic light emitting diodes, is in high-end televisions and portable displays. For the automotive world, OLEDs will house their organic material in thin plastic films rather than layers of glass. Audi says that the "flexible substrate materials [of OLEDs] will lend themselves to three‑dimensional forming, and this will open up entirely new creative spaces for designers".
At CES 2015 in January, BMW unveiled the M4 Iconic Lights concept that featured laser headlights and spectacular OLED tail-lights, which were lit progressively and laid out in wonderful sculptured 3D shapes.
Audi says that "initial projects are currently underway to implement OLED technology in production tail-lights" and that OLED lighting will supplement its existing matrix LED and laser headlights. The German brand has yet to give a timeline for when OLED lights will appear in a showroom-ready vehicle.