Audi turns to sequential lighting indicators


August 15, 2013

Audi is introducing dynamic turn signals on its new A8

Audi is introducing dynamic turn signals on its new A8

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An obvious improvement on the retractable semaphore devices used on some cars in the first half of last century, turn signals have remained largely unchanged since being patented in 1938 and subsequently adopted by automotive manufacturers. But Audi is claiming to have improved the humble turn signal by using a sequence of lights to indicate the intended turn direction.

Set to be introduced into the Matrix LED headlights in the new A8, Audi’s new dynamic indicators consist of an array of LEDs that could make turning a corner a slightly disco affair. Positioned under each front headlight there are 18 LEDs split into seven segments, while the taillights each contain 24 LEDs split into eight segments.

When the driver flicks the indicator on, the segments light up sequentially at 20 millisecond intervals in the direction of the turn – that is, from the inside out. After they are all lit, they remain at full intensity for 250 milliseconds, before going dark and repeating the sequence.

Audi believes its new turn signal lights will make it easier for other road users to identify a driver’s turning intention, even at long distances and in poor visibility conditions.

Source: Audi

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Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

Cool! Maybe drivers will finally figure out what that stick on the left side of the wheel is for.


I like it.


Looks like another distraction for other drivers- wish the German makers would do more work on quality control and less in adding pointless complexity that is yet another thing to go wrong.


Not a new idea. Look at the 1967 Mercury Cougar as a less sophisticated example.


Humph! Might be new to Audi but Ford had 'em on American Mustangs and Cougars nearly 50 years ago. Granted they weren't LEDs because they had not been invented yet but they were eye catching - and that is the whole point.


Sequential turn signals are not so new. I think Mercury Cougars had them starting 1967. I also think their was a high end manufacturer like Cadillac or Lincoln that had them earlier too.

Glen Aldridge

I believe Ford did this on the Cougar about 50 years ago.

Gary Greer

It's nothing new. Ford did it years ago on the Mercury Cougar.

Bill Wilson

Sequential Turn Signals:

1965 - factory fitted on Ford Thunderbirds; Mercury Cougars (1968-1970), Shelby Mustangs (1968-1970), and 1969 Chrysler Imperials.

Joseph Boe

Yellow rear turn signals, should be illegal. they blind the driver behind them, do you see yellow dashes in airplanes ? no, there red ! there is a reason.

Jay Finke

Good to see that others remember.

The Bean Counters probably axed them.

Like they axed the vital sway bar on the Corvair.

Expletives should follow this.

Lewis Dickens

Yes, Cougar etc. Lots of people beat me to it. But in Audi's defense it was just the rear blinkers and not the front. So this is new-ish.

Bruce H. Anderson

My 1966 Tbird had these - nothing new.

Beartown JP

Hey, Jay, airplanes don't use turn signals. I think yellow turn signals should be mandatory, they stand out from brake lights. As for blinding the driver, I've gotten blinded a lot more by headlights than any turn signal.

Current Ford Mustangs have sequential turn lights, not sure if it's standard or optional.


As already mentioned by others Ford had them decades ago and I've even seen them recently on current Mustangs. Don't know if they are factory or not.


The Cougar had 3 sequential lights in the back only. With these placed in the front, this is a very different breed of cat (pun intended) and I applaud it. Yellow lights in front and red ones in back would be the best configuration.


Expanded Viewpoint


You had better tell Audi to stop claiming this was their invention. As several of us have stated, Mercury was doing this in the late 1960's. Certainly no longer under Patent protection, but it is NOT their invention.

Looks like a nice implementation of the idea though...

Marv Wells

I believe the main premise of the article is on sequential turning lights for the front of the car, not the rear that have been around for years as others have posted.

Lots of the modern MOPAR Challenger car owners have added this very aftermarket mod to their vehicles as well as Charger owners.

Here's a nice link to the history of turn signals:


already seeing this on new mustangs. how is this new?

Pat Burneson

For my post above ^^, I was referring to aftermarket REAR taillights on the newer Challengers/Chargers.


Yellow was chosen for indicators so that they stood out from red tail lights (2 watt) and brake (18 watt) lights. Also stood out from the front lights.

Red indicators don't stand out from brake lights and if one tail light is out which is very common now (see prius) who knows what is happening.


Sure, Mercury did this back in the 60's, but it was far from simple. These days car companies can program a computer to do this, but the back in the day they needed a series of motors and cams, but that's not all.

Basically, the system works as follows: when the directional lever on the turn signal switch is moved, it completes circuits that select and feed power to the corresponding bank of lights. Power for the lights is fed through the turn signal relay to the sequencer. The sequencer has three cams that, when rotated, depress switches corresponding to the inboard, center, and outboard tail lights. The power is then routed first through the emergency relay (which disconnects all but the center light if the emergency switch is on for Cougars and connects all lights together for T-Birds.) and then to the directional relay. This two-sectioned (right and left) relay routes power through to the selected bank of lights. Since brake lights are not sequenced, the directional relay allows all lights to turn on simultaneously when the brake light power feed is energized. But when the turn signal switch is actuated, the brake light power feed is disconnected and the turn signal feed is activated to allow the directional signal to override the brake lights.

Genius for it's time.

Suspicious Chihuahua

Pretty scary if we've accepted such a level of condescension that we now think it requires animated directional arrows to comprehend a turn signal. What next, maps that tell us where we are and where we're going? ... oh ... uh ... never mind....

Fritz Menzel

@grumpyrelic, they had LEDs back almost 100 years ago, just not a economical option, not very good till the past few years. You are right, 67 Cougars had them , the new Mustangs have them, I do not know why they think this is big news, unless because first for the front turn signals.


My grandfather had the first patent on sequential turn signals back in about 1928 or so. Lester L. Jones.


@Lewis M. Dickens III

The only thing wrong with the Corvair except the weight of the rear engine caused the car to hit the curb sideways in a skid triggering a rollover was Ralph Nader libeling it while working for a different manufacturer.


It's very cute (and obviously not an original idea) but until all cars have them and the stupid drivers too busy texting or holding phones to their faces are forced to use them they are no more than a blip on the radar of improved road safety.


Hmmm...amber turn signals are the standard. I hope Audi isn't using yellow.

Kerry Smith

LOL!... The Corvair safe... and Ralph Nader a bad guy working for another manufacturer!... now THAT's FauxNewTalk at its creepiest! Wow, let's all give it up for Slowburn, folks!

Fritz Menzel


I don't know where you got the information, but Wikipedia and other sources of historical info give 1962 as the start of LEDs, not 1913:

I'll grant you that the early thermionic valve diode emitted some light around 1904, but not from its own operation, only from the heating element for the cathode which enabled it, so those were no more 'LEDs' that any other faintly-glowing hot wire:


The new Audi A3/S3 has horrible rear amber turn signals - tiny little slitty things, that can't be seen from behind when braking! They seem to be flooded by the extra bright RED led lights, so anything to improve visibility all around would help. Heres hoping that Audi better spend their R&D in other areas.

Julian Singh

Ummm new mustangs have been doing that the Last few years already. Nice try Audi.

Andrew Zuckerman
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