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Audi to bring back pop-up headlights

LIGHTING THE WAY: The next-generation e-tron GT is one of the model’s expected to showcase Audi’s concealed headlight technology.

Hidden headlights may soon make a comeback on Audi Sport and e-tron models

14 Jun 2022

HIDDEN or so-called pop-up headlamps have disappeared from new cars due to pedestrian safety regulations and have have been outlawed by legislators world-wide. The mechanism that operates pop-up headlights can detract from a car’s ability to absorb impact in a collision, especially involving pedestrians. But Audi may have found a workaround…


According to a report from CarBuzz, Audi recently secured application approval from the German Patent and Trademark Office for a version of pop-up or hidden headlights. It gives an insight into possible styling directions the German manufacturer may take in future.


Apart from looking good by favourably contributing to a car’s lines, pop-up headlights are beneficial to aerodynamics by creating a smooth frontal area on a car that reduces drag therefore improving efficiency including fuel economy.


Because pop-ups are no longer legal on any new cars, creating a clean front fascia has become difficult for designers.


The patent application says Audi would use a changeable, permanently fixed cover for the headlights with the ability to switch between opaque and transparent. The patent mentions so called “intelligent” glass that would function in a similar way but would automatically activate when the headlights were switched on or at night.


According to CarBuzz, instead of using the technology throughout the headlight housing, Audi’s documentation suggests that only parts of the headlight would use the technology at any one time.


That means the area around the indicators could be covered to allow just white light to shine through. Alternatively, when the car is turning, the low beams and DRLs would be effectively dimmed, allowing the amber light to shine through more vividly. This may enhance visibility and safety.


Audi seems just as interested in the aesthetics as much as the safety aspect.


This technology is not really pop-up headlights in the traditional sense but hidden headlights. It is a development that could have far reaching effects on Audi (and VW/Skoda) products.


Pop-up headlights first appeared on the Cord 810 at the 1935 New York Auto Show and shortly after on an Alfa Romeo 8C (in 1936).


Over the intervening decades, particularly the 1970s, 80s and early 90s, hundreds of different model cars had pop-up headlights including, more recently, the Lotus Elan, various Ferraris and Lamborghinis, the NA-series Mazda MX-5, Nissan Exa and Honda Prelude among many others.


Unlike the Cord that featured hand cranks inside the cabin, later models required a hydraulic or electro-mechanical cranking mechanism to allow the lights to move and create the desired sleek look. Some of these systems proved to be problematic often malfunctioning.


Powered hidden pop-up headlamps first appeared on a GM concept car in 1938, the quaintly named Buick Y-Job and appeared on concept cars for several years after.


The Lotus Elan of 1962 ushered in power operated hidden headlamps in a production model. A relatively large variety of cars incorporated hidden, pop-up headlamps in the 1970s, 1980s, and up to the early 1990s until they were outlawed.


With carbuzz

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