Home » The Boldest Taillight Innovations Are Happening In China Right Now

The Boldest Taillight Innovations Are Happening In China Right Now

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The other night I went to a new taillight bar that opened in town, Bette’s Blinker Bar, because they had a promo where you could get up to three free shots if you can drink them out of a Bugeye Sprite taillight lens without spilling anything. I managed to do two rounds of this thanks to careful application of a fake moustache, so six shots in, I was pretty well buzzed. Maybe that’s why what I saw then hit me so hard and with such gravity: a picture, sent to me by a friend currently in China, of the taillights of a Huawei AITO M9. What I saw in those taillights was the realization of a simple dream I’ve had for years. Big things are happening in the taillight world, and they seem to be happening in China.

My friend who sent me the picture was Derek Powell, who is shooting a documentary out there, as part of a series for Motor Trend. He’s aware of my automotive kinks and fetishes, so when he saw the taillights of that AITO M9 doing something unexpected, he grabbed a picture.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

The picture was what you saw above, but just for giggles, here’s another one:

Heartlight

See those hearts there? Sure, it may seem silly and frivolous, but what’s really going on is a big deal, one that’s been loosely toyed with before, but I don’t think has ever really been fully applied to the taillights of a mass-market car before. It’s the ability to show custom images and patterns in an LED matrix display that makes up the taillights.

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I should mention it’s not just heart-lights, which has the unfortunate (?) side effect of putting this Neil Diamond song into my head:

There seems to be a variety of animations and images that can be displayed, and, if this ad is any indicator, actual text as well:

Huawei Ad

I don’t read Chinese, but I’m assuming that character has some sort of significant meaning? I tried my translation app, and it’s not getting it, either, so if anyone reading this knows what that character means, please let us know in the comments. I’m curious if it’s safety-related or just something fun.

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Now, Audi has been doing something like this with their DRLs, but those have been very low-resolution “displays,” and don’t really have the communication potential afforded by taillights, which you’re far more likely to be staring at for any length of time. Also, I did propose the idea of being able to send custom displays to a matrix lighting system last year:

Definematrix

…of course, I suspect carmakers would be hesitant to give that level of control to people, who have a collective history of drawing dicks on all sorts of things.

The Huawei system seems to allow for selecting one of a number of animations or images that can be displayed; you can see it in action in this video:

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I cued up the video to the section with the taillights, but the M9 seems to also have a matrix system up front, where it can be used to adapt the shape of the beam and, it appears, actually project some simple images onto the roadway? That’s very cool.

American taillight laws are pretty restrictive, and I think there are some rules against animations in taillights; however, sequential turn indicators are legal here, and that’s a form of animation, so there may be ways to implement things like these. As far as images and shapes, as long as the basic taillight functions are present and are of the minimum required surface area, color, and brightness, there really isn’t a reason why custom graphical taillight images couldn’t be used.

I’ve long felt that taillights were trending towards actual displays, and I think there’s some genuine safety advantages that can be had from being able to communicate more than just color and light. Braking intensity, warning messages, clearer turn indication, there’s a lot of possibilities here. We’ve even seen it in action on Hawaiian public buses, of all things, already:

I hope what Huawei (and other manufacturers) are doing with matrix-display taillights takes off. This could be an exciting new taillight frontier, and I’m all for it.

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Jeff Marquardt
Jeff Marquardt
1 month ago

As others have mentioned the character 囍 means double happiness and is a very auspicious character for weddings, births and other important events.

Also, as I have been living in Beijing for more than 20 years, I have been fortunate to have a front row seat to the taillight revolution and am in contact with a guy, who in my opinion is a true artist and makes his own taillights. I have a set on my Camaro which are probably not legal but stunningly beautiful. His creativity and ingenuity are really something to behold.

Here is a link, because I don’t know how to attach images.

https://www.camaro5.com/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=1142642&stc=1&d=1702363213

or try

https://www.camaro5.com/forums/showthread.php?t=326653&page=12

Lastly, where are they filming? I wonder if I could be of any help or just hang out with them? I’ve been trying to make more automotive investigative journalism and would love to see how the pros do it!

Here are some of my recent videos if anyone wants to check them out!

https://www.dongchedi.com/ugc/article/7367604018664701978?zt=m_station_backflow

https://www.dongchedi.com/ugc/article/7370872703663734810

EricTheViking
EricTheViking
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff Marquardt

I wonder whether your comment with many links got posted quickly or had to wait for the approval. Sometimes, it takes a day or two to get my comments with five or so links approved.

Jeff Marquardt
Jeff Marquardt
1 month ago
Reply to  EricTheViking

I have no idea, that’s the first time I’ve ever tried to post links! I did just post it in the morning here, and I’m reading the comment in the evening so within 12 hours

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
1 month ago

How long till someone programs in a pair of middle fingers?

Stephen Reed
Stephen Reed
1 month ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Probably about as long as it takes for someone to plug in their laptop.

El Barto
El Barto
1 month ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Amateur – it’s always dick pix first.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
1 month ago
Reply to  El Barto

Its so pixilated it’s double middle finger AND dick pix both!

Hamish48
Hamish48
1 month ago

end the nonsense of having turn signals on the very lowest part of the car where they are invisible in bumper to bumper city traffic

Pancakeman!
Pancakeman!
1 month ago
Reply to  Hamish48

This

Logan King
Logan King
1 month ago

I’d be happy with manufacturers not doing stupid crap with the location and shape of their taillights (Hyundai…)before they start trying to do any of this nonsense.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
1 month ago

Non-sequitur note to Lewin – Huawei make ACs and apparently, cars.

Citrus
Citrus
1 month ago

I just realized that “Lewin” is the Autopian staffer whose name is most likely to be a sub-brand of a Chinese car manufacturer.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
1 month ago

AliExpress has all sorts of neat LED matrix add-on lights. Too bad they’re illegal over here. Folks somehow miss the already bright taillights on my camper. A giant strip very clearly signaling my intent to turn would be welcomed.

Lizardman in a human suit
Lizardman in a human suit
1 month ago

Your taillights are fine. Next time text them that you are stopping or turning, since they are staring at their phone while driving

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
1 month ago

So true.

James Carson
James Carson
1 month ago

A few months back was passed by some idiot with aftermarket (I’m assuming) tail lights that were flashing at a near stoboscopic frequency. Not brake lights but regular tail lights. Distracting, annoying and imo dangerous. Not sure how legal such add on are up here in the great white, but if you ask me, they should be.

Jack Beckman
Jack Beckman
1 month ago

Not sure I’m on board with any of this – when those brake lights come on, I don’t want somebody trying to decipher what they mean, I want them to react to them. Any extra time taken deciding what to do is not good.

Lizardman in a human suit
Lizardman in a human suit
1 month ago
Reply to  Jack Beckman

Oops wrong comment I replied to. Sorry

Last edited 1 month ago by Lizardman in a human suit
Daniel MacDonald
Daniel MacDonald
1 month ago

Getting messages in our turn signals but amber signals still aren’t required

Sklooner
Sklooner
1 month ago

How long before somebody makes a penis or a swastika

Stryker_T
Stryker_T
1 month ago
Reply to  Sklooner

the exact quectosecond it becomes available to the first edge lord the option lands in front of.
Elon Musk has probably already done it.

Last edited 1 month ago by Stryker_T
Harvey Firebirdman
Harvey Firebirdman
1 month ago
Reply to  Stryker_T

Oh I saw one of those edge lords yesterday they were driving a VW Jetta wagon and they had a giant German eagle decal on the back window that had the VW logo instead of a swastika in the circle. Like that is some middle school/high school edge lord joke. Why the hell would you want to be seen driving that though?

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
1 month ago

Maybe just a history buff?

James Carson
James Carson
1 month ago
Reply to  Stryker_T

But the screen to add it would be buried 17 menus deep in the dash tablet.

Stryker_T
Stryker_T
1 month ago
Reply to  James Carson

edgelords spend so much time tapping out on screens being edgelordy online, so that isn’t a slowdown for them

Last edited 1 month ago by Stryker_T
Fuzz
Fuzz
1 month ago

Was it just me who saw the “define custom light signature” panel and immediately visualized drawing a cock and balls, or a middle finger? Are people in China not all mentally 14, like me? Because this feels like a really obvious exploit.

The Mark
The Mark
1 month ago
Reply to  Fuzz

It was not just you. I had a thought of making the left light “F” and the right light “U”

James Carson
James Carson
1 month ago
Reply to  Fuzz

They’d be messing up their social credit when it got discovered.

SNL-LOL Jr
SNL-LOL Jr
1 month ago
Reply to  Fuzz

China is an ancient civilization and is too sophisticated for these shenanigans.
They would rather discuss their awareness to the ecosystem, and display symbols of creatures such as the famed “grass mud horse.”

GokieKS
GokieKS
1 month ago

The Chinese character shown is shuang xi/double happiness: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_Happiness_(calligraphy)

ExAutoJourno
ExAutoJourno
1 month ago
Reply to  GokieKS

Sooooo…when one applies the brakes, the message is “Stop double happiness”?

My godfather attached a Pep Boys auxiliary light to his ’54 VW Beetle (how I wish I had that car!). Its message to the world when lit was “STOP.”

Industrial_design_guy
Industrial_design_guy
1 month ago

I’ve been pondering this very question for some time. Why couldn’t automakers incorporate displays into them, allowing you to choose your taillight style? It seems so easy, other than the added cost and reliability issues maybe? But really, it seems like we’ve been really good at avoiding this mostly uncharted territory.

Harvey Firebirdman
Harvey Firebirdman
1 month ago

I am assuming there is some type of safety reason why this has not been allowed in the US yet. Kind of like adaptive brights that have been over in Europe for years but there was an ancient law here preventing them from using the tech in the US. Which I think adaptive headlights are now allowed in the US as of recently within the last few years. And I mean the ones that adjust where the high beam is depending of the cars around you not just the auto off/on brights if it sees oncoming vehicles.

Jack Beckman
Jack Beckman
1 month ago

While they are now “allowed” you won’t find any. Why? Because NHTSA decided that EU standards weren’t good enough, and wrote their own. No car manufacturers are in a hurry to spend extra $$$ having their cars certified in these new tests.

Harvey Firebirdman
Harvey Firebirdman
1 month ago
Reply to  Jack Beckman

Yeah I read something I think it was either on Polestar or BMW that there headlights on some of their vehicles are the same as the Euro ones and even have the sensors but are disabled via software because they haven’t gone through the testing yet.

Daniel MacDonald
Daniel MacDonald
1 month ago

My impression is the NHTSA is extremely proscriptive in their writing of lighting regulations so there’s not much wiggle room.

Toecutter
Toecutter
1 month ago

You know what would be really bold in today’s automotive world?

Taillights and headlights that can be fixed with a $5 bulb widely available from an auto parts store with nothing but a flathead screwdriver.

Industrial_design_guy
Industrial_design_guy
1 month ago
Reply to  Toecutter

I agree, but to automakers, that’s way too old fashioned and not expensive enough

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
1 month ago

Customers want them, it’s that simple. But as these complicated lights increasingly require a mortgage to replace, it’s possible the tide may turn against them. It’s unlikely we’ll ever return to the old style bulb in a reflector though.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
1 month ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

I’d be fine with an array of regular 3mm red LEDs that can be swapped out if needed.

Lew Schiller
Lew Schiller
1 month ago
Reply to  Toecutter

I was thrilled recently to be able to replace the primary taillight bulb in our Equinox with just a 10mm socket (could have been a phillips screwdriver). Mind you it’s a 2010 and as such hasn’t caught up with the latest in owner averse design.

Harvey Firebirdman
Harvey Firebirdman
1 month ago
Reply to  Toecutter

What are you talking about? You don’t enjoy having to pay 500+ dollars to replace a whole assembly to get a light working again? Pff your poor plebian peons. (As I walk out to my truck that has marker lights held on by zip ties, no head liner, mismatched fender, no a/c, paint that is faded and flaking away, leaky windshield and a whole other list of things)

Chartreuse Bison
Chartreuse Bison
1 month ago
Reply to  Toecutter

I mean yes, but fuck flathead screws though

Lizardman in a human suit
Lizardman in a human suit
1 month ago

And Phillips. Never met one not stripped

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
1 month ago
Reply to  Toecutter

My Mazda5 has that feature!

(OK maybe its a 10mm bolt but whatever).

Last edited 1 month ago by Cheap Bastard
Lizardman in a human suit
Lizardman in a human suit
1 month ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Since all 10 mm sockets dissappear this is actually very inconvenient. But then, I’ve never met a flathead screw or Phillips head screw that wasn’t stripped, so… dammit

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
1 month ago

So use a 10 mm box wrench. Problem solved 😉

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
1 month ago
Reply to  Toecutter

I can replace all the rear bulbs in my Lotus with no tools at all, it just uses wing nuts. I’ve even got spare bulbs in the car, guaranteeing that they will never fail.

The front lights however are such a pain to get to that I’ve not corrected the beam aim up yet. I’ve been avoiding driving at night because it’s exhausting just thinking about jacking the car up, taking the arch liner out (fragile and no spares exist!) and then having to make the adjustment with the car on a jack, then putting it back on its wheels every time I want to check how it’s going, for all four lights.

Toecutter
Toecutter
1 month ago
Reply to  Captain Muppet

Is it an Elise?

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
1 month ago
Reply to  Toecutter

2006 Europa. Like an Elise but with less drag (hoorah) but more weight (boo). 995kg isn’t too bad.

Nick Fortes
Nick Fortes
1 month ago
Reply to  Toecutter

I had it, but I prefer my past (and current) vehicle with all LED lighting in which I never had to replace a bulb or remove a housing. <somebody find me a lumberyard so I can knock on all the wood>

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