Audi goes digital with the 2021 Q5's taillights

Headlamps get all the attention, but Audi engineers are working to reinvent taillights, too.

Craig Cole Former reviews editor
Craig brought 15 years of automotive journalism experience to the Cars team. A lifelong resident of Michigan, he's as happy with a wrench or welding gun in hand as he is in front of the camera or behind a keyboard. When not hosting videos or cranking out features and reviews, he's probably out in the garage working on one of his project cars. He's fully restored a 1936 Ford V8 sedan and then turned to resurrecting another flathead-powered relic, a '51 Ford Crestliner. Craig has been a proud member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).
Craig Cole
2 min read
2021 Audi Q5 Digital Taillights

Which lighting signature is your favorite?


From sealed-beam assemblies to more-advanced halogen bulbs , xenon to LED, headlights have changed enormously over the years. Unfortunately, far less innovation has taken place at the opposite end of vehicles. There's only so much you can do with a car or truck's taillights. Or is there?

Engineers at Audi are introducing digital organic light-emitting diode (OLED) taillights on the 2021 Q5 SUV, a step beyond standard LED lamps. These assemblies are not only eye-catching, they offer a range of new functionalities.

Available as an option on the Q5 outside the United States, these redesigned taillamps are comprised of multiple lighting elements, including three separate tiles made of six individual segments. This provides 18 different illuminable sections per lamp, which enables three different selectable lighting signatures and even unique animations that play when, for instance, you come home. Unfortunately, Q5s sold in the US will only feature one of the taillight designs.

Audi Q5 Digital Taillight Warning Messages

In the future, warning messages could be displayed in vehicle taillights.


In addition to all that visual flair, these enhanced taillights should help improve safety as well. Aside from being bright and clear, a proximity indication feature will be included. If the Q5 is stopped and another vehicle approaches from behind, when it gets within 2 meters all the lighting segments can illuminate as a warning. When the Q5 begins moving again, the lamps return to their normal state. In the future, taillights like these could even display special messages or other symbols.

Audi's digital taillights are a step beyond standard LED tail lamps. OLEDs offer high contrast, are infinitely dimmable and super-efficient, drawing much less power. At around 1 millimeter thick, the lighting assemblies themselves are dramatically smaller as well. Conventional LED assemblies can measure 20 or 30 mm, so potential packaging benefits and even weight savings could be realized.

2021 Audi Q5 can be had one of three ways

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