Praise be for LEDs. These clever, energy-efficient lights are transforming the night-time traffic. Little rows of glow-in-the-dark diodes for headlamps, and clusters of them for tail-lights, are being turned into night driving signatures on up-market cars.
As usually happens in the motor industry, what started at the upper end of the car market quickly cascades down into more budget models, and eventually all cars will have them.
Technically, a light-emitting diode is a semiconductor light source that creates light from electricity, called electroluminescence, but does so without generating heat and so uses less energy. First developed in the 1960s, LEDs now seem to be everywhere, from indicator lamps for electronic devices, through torches and camera flashes, to traffic signals and car lights.
What a big difference they make to easier identification of a car after dark. Jaguar, for example, uses rows of LEDs to that resemble a big cat’s whiskers to emphasise its cars’ headlights, adorning the ‘face’ of the car either side of a mouthy grille.
Some Audis have front lights fringed with LEDs that follow a curvey wave under the lamps, while others look more like ticks of approval. Mercedes uses LEDs that appear like accentuating eyebrows. Some sporty Seats have a triangular LEDs that are very distinctive.
LEDs are making a big difference to the design of rear lights on cars too. There are some on current Volkswagens that look like quotation marks, and are very distinctive when you see them ahead of you on a road at night. Some of my favourites are the rather bling rear lamp clusters on a Land Rover Discovery, that emphasise the metal muscle of the big 4×4.
This is all at the forefront of a growing trend, and it is making night driving an increasingly fun game of ‘spot the make and model’, car recognition. The more attention you pay to the style of LED light designs, the easier it is to spot the identities of cars around you on the roads at night.