Lighting Industry, News

BMW shows off OLED brake lights in Vegas

Viva Las Vegas: OLEDs could take off as brake lights, as pioneered by BMW at this week's Consumer Electronics Show in the desert city. Long live OLEDs, or are they heading for a sunset?

Developers of OLED lighting are hoping that what happens in Vegas doesn’t just stay in Vegas.

That’s because BMW this week is heading to the desert city’s annual Consumer Electronics Show to show off the latest potential for the technology that has yet to take the market by storm.

The German automaker will unveil a concept car that replaces traditional brake lights – tail lights in American parlance – with OLEDs, according to various reports including one on the CNET website.

OLEDS – organic light-emitting diodes – are materials that emit light when excited by a current. They have been heralded as the future of lighting, but developers have long struggled to lower their manufacturing costs and improve their energy efficiency to the point where they could compete in the mass market against standard LEDs, which are highly energy efficient electronic chips that give off light. 

US research firm IHS recently noted that OLEDs will remain permanently behind LEDs. The prospect of them catching on as brake lights in the massive automobile market could help reverse that outlook, so all eyes will be on Vegas’ BMW stage this week.

‘BMW will show off OLED tail lights on its concept car, the advantages being that it makes for smooth illumination across the entire panel, can show different tail-light patterns for different circumstances, and requires less intrusion into the body of the car than a typical light and reflector,’ CNET explained.

The car will also include laser headlights, a technology that BMW and rival German carmaker Audi have already begun building into high-end vehicles. 

Whether or not BMW brings the car to market, it continues to blaze lighting trails. Two months ago, it said it will start to offer a hybrid LED streetlight and electric car charger.

Some industry experts, including blue LED co-inventor and Nobel Prize winner Shuji Nakamura, believe that laser diodes, such as those in the BMW headlights, represent the future of lighting, and that they will ultimately replace LEDs.

This being a week where it’s all on display in Las Vegas, perhaps it’s time to place your bets now.

Photo is from Somchaij via Shutterstock