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South Korean automaker Hyundai may be working on adding an LED display into the grille of one of its upcoming vehicles. The leak comes from a thread on a Texas Instruments forum first spotted by a Reddit user. The thread was posted by an individual who identified Hyundai as the end customer for a particular project: a full-color LED matrix display meant to be used on the front grille of a vehicle.
The leak should come as little surprise given that Hyundai has already shown its interest to build both an in-grille intelligent lighting system and LED display. While it's possible that the automaker is looking to build a physical proof of concept, perhaps the automaker is ready to move and wants something scaleable for a future model.
To be clear, this isn't a full high-resolution display like the one you're reading this on now. Instead, it's a grid of LEDs arranged in a 71-by-32 layout. It's possible that Hyundai could couple smaller units of the displays together to increase coverage area or display the output in a higher resolution.
It's also unclear what vehicle will receive this cutting-edge tech. Hyundai has touted technology like its Interactive Smart Face and digital Front End Modules before and it usually puts its latest tech into its electric cars so it wouldn't be far-fetched to imagine this being placed on an upcoming Hyundai EV. The Ioniq 7, for example, has been previewed with a large matrix of square pixel LEDs on the front grille, though its imminent 2024 launch would suggest that it's too late into production.
A Hyundai spokesperson declined to comment on future products in an email to The Drive.
This also isn't the first time we've seen an idea like an in-grille display before. The collaboration between Sony and Honda, called Afeela, also showed a concept that shoved a full-color display in place of the vehicle's grille and could be customized to the user's preference using an app. This goes to show that other automakers are looking at a similar vehicle implementation, which will make this a race to the finish line.
However, there are a few potential issues that may complicate the launch of a product like this just a bit.
Many states prohibit the use of colored lights on the front of a vehicle. More specifically, any color that can be confused with an emergency vehicle (red and blue) is generally prohibited from being illuminated. It would be difficult to imagine any automaker building a full-color display only to have its capabilities neutered by legal issues. Perhaps this could result in the grille, if launched, being a product not available in the U.S. (for now), similar to camera-based side mirrors.
Another possible issue would be cost. Vehicle prices are already skyrocketing with the average new vehicle going for more than $50,000. Adding a complicated display to the front of a vehicle could drive costs even higher.
And the cost doesn't end with just new vehicle purchases. Repairs will certainly jump as well with extra expenses added into already lofty repair bills for a simple fender bender or even collision with road debris. Hyundai's Mobis group reportedly wanted to look at using smart LEDs to reduce the complexity of the integration, though Hyundai reportedly wants to use traditional RGB LEDs to increase reliability, but in turn, increase wiring complexity. That's probably for the best considering Hyundai also isn't exactly known for its long-lasting LED implementations either—even Facebook groups exist with the sole intention of finding burnt-out LEDs in Hyundai and Kia tail lights.