LED taillights use LEDs rather than light bulbs for faster illumination and greater longevity.

LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, have been replacing light bulbs in center, eye-level brake lights for a few years, and now they’re being used in the remaining taillights as well. The use of LEDs isn’t limited to taillights anymore; some automakers are using them for daytime running lights. A few automakers like Cadillac, Audi and Lexus offer them as low-beam headlights although they’re limited to high-end cars.

The main advantage is that they illuminate in a matter of a few billionths rather than a few thousandths of a second. When it comes to a driver’s reaction time and a vehicle’s braking, fractions of a second count. Cadillac, which introduced the first all-LED taillights on its 2000 DeVille, estimates that the difference between the on-time of LEDs versus light bulbs translates to 17.6 feet of space when the car is going 60 mph.

It’s hard to appreciate the difference when dealing with fractions of a second, but it is real and demonstrable. Observe a vehicle that combines an LED center brake light and conventional taillights, and you’ll see that the LEDs come on instantly and the taillights slowly follow. The taillights’ light bulbs come to full intensity and then slowly fade when the driver steps off the brake pedal.

Another advantage to LEDs is that they last far longer than light bulbs — probably as long as the car itself. Because they’re composed of many small LEDs rather than a single element, the possibility of an entire taillight burning out at once is beyond remote. LEDs both reduce maintenance requirements and ensure that the vehicle’s rear lights will always work, a significant safety gain.

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Answered by Joe Bruzek on September 16, 2008 in Glossary | Permalink

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