Carmakers in Detroit, Japan, Germany, and elsewhere are competing fiercely to offer cars and trucks that have the most irritating, annoying, and distracting lights possible.
“Thanks to new LED technology, we’re able to annoy and distract people in a way that we never could before, and that’s really a game-changer for this industry,” says Rolf Anthonssen, chairman of Volvo Personvagnar AB, the Swedish car making giant based in Gothenburg.
Since about 2010, carmakers have been turning to LED technology for headlights and tail lights because of the technology’s versatility and efficiency. LED technology uses light emitting diodes that require little energy to power on and off. Because of that efficiency, automakers can make lights twice as bright as traditional incandescent bulbs, and at less cost.
John Blaine, an auto industry analyst with Lehman Bros., says the technology enables carmakers to spend little to damage the retinas of drivers who have no choice but to look at the headlights and tail lights while they’re driving. “It used to be prohibitively expensive to damage people’s retinas, but now carmakers can do it for virtually no cost, so it’s really a win-win for everybody,” he says. “Well, almost everybody.”
Automakers also like LED lights because of their versatility. Now they can male headlights and tail lights using a variety of design styles, and for turn signals and brake lights, they can make the lights blink so quickly that they can trigger epileptic seizures in some people. “We never could have done this cost-effectively before,” says Anders Bernes, chief design officer for BMW. “Even five years ago, triggering seizures in people with epilepsy was just a dream, but, as you can see, it’s a reality now.”
Analysts say it’s not just cost and design flexibility that’s driving the adoption of LED lighting technology but the need to grab the attention of drivers and pedestrians who are distracted by their cell phones and other device. “When you have people listening to music, talking on their phone, or texting, you need to be able to grab their attention,” says Blaine. “LED technology, with its ultra-bright illumination and rapid-fire blinking, is able to do that.”
Automakers say the new technology enables distracted people to have their cake and eat it to. “Instead of requiring people to take responsibility for their own safety, the new technology enables them to keep doing what they’re doing,” says Anthonssen. “What we’re saying is, why take responsibility for your own safety when you can let us cut through your distraction for you, with our new technology? It’s another win-win, because you can walk across the street with confidence while you’re texting, because you know an approaching car’s ultra-bright lights will grab your attention before the car threatens your life. Then you can go back to your texting with minimal disruption.”
“In the old days, it was up to people to be responsible for their own safety,” says Blaine. “That’s no longer necessary.”
Next up for automakers is the introduction of fake and unsettling engine sounds. “Because cars are getting quieter, we need to add to the noise of the world with fake engine sounds that are unnatural and unsettling in their artificiality,” says Anthonssen. “That will be yet one more way we’ll be able to annoy and irritate people with our products. It really is a new dawn for annoying and irritating people in ways we weren’t able to annoy and irritate them before. When you combine that with road rage and guns, we’re set for an exciting future.”
This is a work of satire. It is fictional news article not meant to be taken seriously. Photos: mg, ab (Creative Commons). Not necessarily an endorsed use of images.
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