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March 19 Weekly Open Thread: 3 Things I Wish All Cars Had

Welcome to this week's Weekly Open Thread where we talk about most anything automotive-related. This time, may I suggest a few features that I'd like to see on all new cars, and possibly retrofitted on all vehicles.

Brake lights1) Brake lights that work when the car in front of you slows down. Now that seems logical, right? But wait... the driver has to hit the brake pedal to make this happen, so what about the smarty- pants in front of you that grabs the hand brake or shifts down "enthusiatically?"

That car is rapidly decelerating, and you may not know it in time. That driver may be trying to get rear-ended. But if we had decelerator indicators, devices even as simple as mercury switches, we'd know that the vehicle is rapidly losing speed... and we could prepare better.

Radio knob2) Does anybody here remember old-fashioned mechanical radio volume knobs? You know, the ones that work when the radio is off. Today, you have to insert a key, turn on the car, wait for the radio to come on, then turn the knob to make anything happen.

On these older systems, all you had to do was turn the knob to lower the volume, key on or off. This sounds a bit trite, but if you ever wanted to turn down the volume before you start your car, especially after your teenager drove it, you'd know how convenient this would be. And was.

Rear fog light3) Rear fog light(s). These are nothing new to Europeans, so why are us safety-conscious Colonists ignoring such a simple safety feature? All vehicles here in the USA could easily be converted to the system.

The idea is so simple. These lights don't let you see any better in fog, but they may help the car to the rear see you. They can be just one of your existing brake lights working, or they can be a separate light entirely. This car seems to apply both systems as rear fog lights.

I'm sure all of us have wishful features that aren't on cars and trucks. Would you please share them with us? You never know, somebody in "the biz" might be listening. And of course, this is still the place to bring up anything else about cars that you wish.

--That Car Guy (Chuck)

Image Credits: The brake lights image is from Farm4.StaticFlickr.com. Our radio image is from www.OriginalCarRadios.com. The rear fog light image is from Farm4.Static.Flickr.com.

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All great points.

Regarding the new car audio systems, they just need to make more sophisticated software. They need to allow for custom user-defined settings that would allow you to, for example, set a preset volume level that the system reverts to when shut off. There can even be multi-user accounts, that let you log in, perhaps automatically with your key, and the car automatically sets everything, climate control temperature, seats, mirrors, audio volume, etc. to your preset preferences. Each family member or user of the car could have their own settings.

Something I'd like to see, which isn't really a car feature, but is related, is intelligent traffic signals. Sometimes you can be driving along a quiet residential street and all of a sudden the light turns red, even though there are no cars approaching on the cross street, and you have to jam on the brakes and stop and sit there, with your car idling, wasting gas, and wait for some stupid timer to change the light. Wouldn't it be better to have traffic signals that actually see the traffic and use that information to make intelligent decisions about when to change the signal, just like a real traffic cop would? It would increase efficiency, save fuel, and save wear and tear on our vehicles.

They're already heading that way. My GTI's audio system has a "default" volume preset it reverts to when the car shuts off.

I suppose "Kate Beckinsale" doesn't count. . . . .

Naw, she's spoken for... for now.

My US-spec Mercedes CLK has a rear fog light.
It's an extra bulb (or at least a bulb setting) for the drivers side tail light. I've used it 2-3 times over the years.

I can see that might be helpful here, but I've never seen fog as bad in the US as I routinely saw in the UK.
Still, it would add a bit of cost and complexity to the car, and I'm not sure if people would use them enough to make them really worth it.

When I see American fog-related pile-ups with 70 or so cars involved, I can't help but wonder if a rear fog light system might have helped avoid some of that.

I don’t know about a slow down indicator but I always thought brake lights should be progressive. The harder you brake the brighter the brake light gets (or the more LEDs illuminate). You could then tell if you’re approaching a possible near death experience on the highway ahead or just some clown resting his foot on the brake pedal.

I've thought about the whole radio thing before. It's kind of a pain to have to put the key in just to sit in the car and listen to it, but I suppose it's that way to avoid running out the battery. I like the idea of an auto-volume level on startup.

I'd kind of like some sort of security device that allows an owner to get into a car in which the keys have been locked. Something like a combination lock or something mechanical like that.

Marve, maybe the brake lights could flash in a panic application...?

Anthony - nearly every new Ford for the past 15ish years has had optional number pad on the door to unlock the vehicle. Why this isn't standard is beyond me.

you could probably kludge something together to get in when your keys are locked out. Just get one of thse things (http://www.selectlocks.com/site/1266378/page/465579) and attach it somewhere to the underside of your car where it's not too hard to get at but not too obvious either and throw a spare key in there.

Tornado - check out http://www.rhythmtraffic.com - intelligent traffic signals!

Rear fog lights? My A4 had one on the driver's side. Never used it. Why? Because I was afraid I would get pulled over for faulty taillights.

That Car Guy, I like the flashing brake light idea. That would help on my 5 panic stops per minute DC beltway commute, I’ve seen my life flash before my eyes so many times it’s getting to be a monotonous re-run.

If they flashed rapidly, maybe much faster that hazard lights, people would eventually figure out what that meant... hopefully. :)

@Marve Harwell
"I always thought brake lights should be progressive. The harder you brake the brighter the brake light gets (or the more LEDs illuminate)."

Absolutely brilliant idea. How this doesn't already exist is incomprehensible.

@Jenny K
Wow. That Rhythm Engineering company rocks! Thanks for the link.

Not sure if it can help with parking-brake applications or hard downshifting, but some European-spec cars now have the rear hazard flashers triggered by the ABS computer under hard braking.

If that's possible, then it shouldn't be much harder for a warning circuit to monitor the vehicle speed sensor and just trigger rear brake lights and/or rear hazards when deceleration exceeds a threshold value.

The hard part, of course, is getting US Federal DOT standards to accept it.

*Blood boils when looking at the Honda Accord pic* I'd be OK with the rear red foglight, but current Ricer trends have soured it for me.
Ricers that think they know JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) are so clueless that they put these things, which are clearly EDM (European Domestic Market) on their heaps and are convinced it's JDM. Yes, I know there are JDM machinery with rear foglights straight from the factory, but just because you saw a pic of a UK-market Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IV with it doesn't mean it's JDM, and it definitely won't make your Mitsubishi Mirage 4-door any cooler. Neither on your cousin's Hyundai Accent with the novelty Japanese license plate.

I wish the car behind me had a driver paying attention to me taking my foot off the gas pedal and slowing down.

Don't make your inattention my responsibility.

I'd like to see all vehicles with DRLs (daytime running lights). It makes no sense to me why some -- like my daughter's new Fiesta -- have electronically controlled DRLs that are turned on in Canadian versions but not in their US equivalents, despite there being no difference in the systems parts-wise.

I'm not a fan of DRLs. The first (GM) ones here were high beams, in your face, at 80% brightness, and they hurt my eyes. The Saturns were the worst, as their headlights were closer together.

Also, at night, many people still think their headlights are on when their DRLs and dash lights come on automatically. They drive around with no taillights thinking they are already lit.

I believe Canadian law requires DRLs where USA laws don't. Since it gets darker there more than it does down here, I can understand that.

There may be a post here.

Back in the 70s, there was an aftermarket device that caused your brake lights to pulsate- the harder you stomped on the brake, the faster they flashed.

It sounded like a great idea to me - but it never caught on.

@That Car Guy: The DRLS I've seen (Toyotas mostly) aren't tied to the dash lights; you have to turn on the parking/head lights (and thus the tail lights) in order to turn on the dash lights. If some make turns on the latter w/o turning on the headlights too, that seems like a pretty bad design in my opinion.

You're right, it could make an interesting post.

How about a power window setting that lowers the window just one inch. How many times haven't you played with the switch to get it, and then the window rides all the way up or down. Maybe a dial?

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