If the general state of the world is getting you down, and you’re thinking that modernity has nothing to offer you but miserable weird weather, pandemics, crazy people who disagree with you online, and a general sense of despair, then I have good news for you. Because while, sure, all of that previously mentioned garbage may be true, we’re also on the cusp of an amazing new era for automotive lighting: the fun era.
That clip up top of the new Cadillac Lyriq is a great example of what I’m talking about: that’s on the production car, and it looks like the sort of thing that would show up on concept cars just a few years ago.
But there it is, on something that you’ll be able to buy soon, and it’ll happen whenever you approach the car with your key. Why? Because we can do it, that’s why. And it’s fun, dammit.
Now, the basics behind this idea aren’t new, of course; the origins of having a little animated fun with a car’s lighting likely go back to the 1964 Ford Thunderbird, which had sequentially-illuminating turn indicators at the rear:
Back in the 1960s, this took some work. Electronics weren’t advanced enough to pull it off, so this little animation was accomplished with a little motorized cam setup, a fun, complicated bit of electromechanical magic:
Other recent cars have done some similar things; we’ve seen sequential turn signals on Mustangs and Audis for a number of years now, the new Polestar 2 has a little animated taillight sequence, Tesla Model Xs have a little light show/dance party Easter Egg, and so on.
I think the Lyriq will be the first to market with a really elaborate lighting sequence for its front lighting, but this sort of thing has been burbling and percolating just below the surface for quite a while.
Innovations in LED lighting and what seems to be a bit of relaxing of regulations about decorative, non-headlamp lights are setting the stage for what I hope will be a glorious explosion of luminescent dances, making our parking lots blink and flash and dance like a Fourth of July sky.
The Lyriq’s sequence is nicely choreographed: first the tiny elements of Cadillac’s coat-of-arms crest illuminate, then the ‘smile’ of the grille flows on, reaching up to the amber indicators, which dance outward to spill their photons into the DRL strips and then stack up the main headlight elements, one by one.
It’s got an almost liquid-like flow, coming forth from the badge and filling in everything on both sides. It’s almost soothing, and to the people who feel like it may be a “bit much” every time they unlock the car, come on. Have a little fun. It’s far less irritating than a double flash and dual honk of a normal car remote locking, and it beats the hell out of GM’s confusing and irritating practice of lighting up the reverse lamps when the car is locked or unlocked.
It’s time. The technology is here and widely available, we’re still humans and still have the capacity for joy and wonder. Also, modern car lighting is already stupidly expensive to replace, so how about making it worth it? If I’m going to have to pay two grand for a new headlight, motherfucker better dance for me.
As long as Cadillac doesn’t do anything stupid like they did with their XLR taillights. That would ruin everything.