The way drivers communicate with one another is woefully primitive when you really think about it. Although humanity is working on scary-good AI and brain-chip implants that can literally read minds, the basic range of things a person can convey from inside their car is stuck in 1950.  

We have blinkers to indicate direction and hazard lights that say “I’ll only be parked illegally for a minute, I swear.” A gentle tap of the horn means “move along,” while a prolonged honk means "move along, or else." Middle fingers and muffled obscenities are deployed when none of the above quite cut it. 

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The Audi Q6 E-Tron Is A Big Deal

The Q6 E-Tron brings an entirely new electric platform for Audi, along with new taillight tech. It arrives later this year. The crossover debuts a number of technologies Audi considers vital to its future.

Engineers at Audi aim to catapult on-road communication into the 21st century by giving cars the ability to say much more than just “I’m turning” or “You drive like a moron.” The brand envisions cars that automatically broadcast important messages to other road users, potentially making roads safer.

That effort all starts with a pair of illuminated red triangles.

The automaker’s upcoming Q6 E-Tron, an electric SUV, debuts a world first: taillights that communicate with surrounding drivers. Here’s how it works.

The taillights are made up of 360 teeny-tiny OLED panels—way more than Audi’s previous-generation lighting. Each triangular segment essentially functions as a pixel for creating different lighting designs. In theory, the possibilities are just about endless, but Audi gives drivers the choice of eight signatures, including seven static designs and one that morphs and shimmers. That’s just for fun. 

2025 Audi Q6 E-Tron

2025 Audi Q6 E-Tron

2025 Audi Q6 E-Tron taillights.
2025 Audi Q6 E-Tron taillights.
2025 Audi Q6 E-Tron taillights.
2025 Audi Q6 E-Tron taillights.
2025 Audi Q6 E-Tron taillights.

But here’s the really cool part. The lights are also programmed to display two bold triangles—one on each side—when the Q6 thinks a following driver ought to perk up and proceed with caution. If the Audi’s real-time traffic data learns of, say, a stopped vehicle or a crash up ahead, the triangles will switch on. They’ll also show up if the Q6 senses that the car behind is approaching too quickly, if the Q6’s driver makes an emergency call, if they click on the hazard lights or if they’re about to exit the car. 

Audi Light SS2

If a driver initiates Audi’s self-parking function, a duo of open-bottomed triangles appears instead. The thinking there was that other drivers should know to steer clear even if the Audi’s driver doesn’t appear to be going through the usual motions of parking. The driver might even be standing on the curb outside the vehicle. 

Audi OLED lighting technology

From outside to inside: Audi's previous-generation, current and next-generation OLED lighting technology.

Audi started out with a few hundred potential symbols, Stephan Berlitz, Audi’s head of lighting development, told me. Surveys and studies helped narrow it down to one—at least for now.

The lighting team considered snowflakes for calling out icy conditions. But they were too difficult to interpret from more than a few feet away. They mulled over a red hand, like you’d find at a crosswalk. But too many survey respondents misinterpreted it. Words and letters—like a “P” for parking—were ruled out.

It was important to land on something that would cut across language barriers and potentially be understandable to children who can’t read. After all, a huge portion of Audi’s customers are in China. 

So Berlitz’s team landed on triangles, a standard symbol for “hazard” around the world. The variation for parking is intended to come off a bit gentler—to call attention without signaling imminent danger. The company chose OLED technology because it produces crisp, high-contrast and homogenous imagery, he said. 

Add these taillights to the long list of nice things we don’t get in the U.S. You can thank our outdated regulations for that. Here, taillights need to be “steady burning,” so they can’t transform into triangles while a car is in motion. Audi is hoping to get the system approved for situations when a driver turns on their hazards, Berlitz said, but all the automatic stuff is a no-go.

2025 Audi Q6 E-Tron

2025 Audi Q6 E-Tron

A couple of red triangles may not feel like a revolution. But they’re just early efforts in a much broader project, Berlitz said. 

Audi plans to expand communication lighting to other models over time. Its next-generation taillights will have even more OLED panels, giving them the ability to display more intricate designs. Someday, Audi’s headlights will display messages too. The company is also looking into a projection system that beams alerts onto the street beside a vehicle. Berlitz expects that the European regulators will approve that capability in the near future. 

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In part, Audi is preparing for a future of increasingly autonomous cars. Driverless vehicles can’t make eye contact or wave a pedestrian across a crosswalk, so manufacturers are developing alternatives. Waymo, the robotaxi company, uses LED screens on its roof to alert cyclists that a passenger is about to open their door, for example.

Berlitz says the company is thinking about how self-driving cars of the future will navigate complicated, often confusing situations like four-way stops or uncertain pedestrians. More communication would help.

“We can wait until autonomous cars are on the street or we can start now,” he said.

Contact the author: tim.levin@insideevs.com

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