It could be a dark car park in an unfamiliar part of town, or the dirt path between the car and the holiday home, or the dimly-lit basement garage – these are all places where drivers sometimes wish for better illumination when leaving or approaching their vehicles. Although there are special lighting features that already address a number of these needs, a few are still unfamiliar to many car owners. Safe Home is one such feature.
After switching off the engine, briefly pull the headlight flasher and the headlights will come on to light the area in front of the car. They go off again automatically after a period of between 30 seconds and two minutes, depending on the vehicle model. Some cars will even let you choose the length of illumination in the settings menu. Those owners who are aware of this feature usually think it’s an excellent idea, and probably use it now and again. However, if uninformed drivers pull the headlight flasher accidentally while getting out of their cars, the likelihood is they will frantically try to switch the lights off by pulling the flasher again – only to succeed in repeatedly resetting the function!
This is less likely to happen with drivers in the US, where the feature has been standard in most vehicles for a good many years now. It was added as a deterrent to attacks on car owners while walking the last few yards from their cars to their homes. Americans are familiar with the functionality and use it as a matter of course. European owners who decide they don’t really need it will normally be able to permanently deactivate the feature in the settings menu. In a few cases, however, it may be necessary to get a software modification at the garage.
There is a second lighting solution that also originates from the safety-conscious US automobile market: when the doors are unlocked using the remote key fob, the interior lights come on at the same time, giving owners the chance to check whether the back seats and footwells are free of robbers before getting into the car. Cases in which criminals crouch behind the front seats waiting for their victims are obviously not so uncommon in the US. Some modern alarm systems even include a heartbeat sensor that automatically detects the number of people in a parked car and transmits this information to the owner’s key fob.
In normal places and situations, this feature is just a practical aid for owners who need to get into cars in gloomy places. To provide similar assistance, many cars also activate their parking lights (and any puddle lamps on the doors) when the owner unlocks them. With some models, the owner needs to press the unlock button a second time in order for this so-called Approach Lighting to come on.
A relatively new trend, however, is for car manufacturers to celebrate the locking or unlocking of car doors with a veritable light show. Vehicles with Welcome Lighting project a “carpet” of light onto the ground next to the doors, accompanied by synchronized illumination of the car’s interior and exterior lights as the advertising highlights. There are, of course, other lighting features that have little to do with convenience or safety: rear chaser lights or manufacturers’ logos that are projected onto the road or permanently illuminated on the car’s hood. These are all very much a matter of personal taste. Nevertheless, there are concerns that an overabundance of colorful and flashing lights may be distracting for other road users. Issues of this kind are also discussed by the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), the body responsible for regulating the area of vehicle lighting.