I’m sure you’ve noticed that many new cars have intense turn signals, toggling between on and off instantly without the soft fade you see on the blinkers of older cars. That’s a byproduct of LEDs replacing incandescent bulbs. The new tech is more efficient, but aesthetically a little jarring. Mazda’s injecting some thoughtfulness here to make blinkers prettier.
For those seeking more context: New cars often have super bright, instant-on blinker lights because LEDs don’t have a filament to heat up like older light bulbs do. So while a ’90s car naturally has a pleasant, soft heartbeat-like pulse to its turn signal rhythm, a modern car’s LED blinker lights up like an alarm on a spaceship.
I didn’t think anyone but me was really bothered by this. I’ve never cared for LED turn signals and always relished the soft operation of older blinkers, but I complained about this to my fellow gearhead editors here once and they looked at me like I was nuts.
Clearly, at least one ranking design person at Mazda missed the fade too though, as the automaker’s just released a blog post about its Dimming Turn Signals and even assigned the concept an acronym (DTS).
In that post, Lamp Development Leader Atsushi Yoshida lends quite a few quotes on design spirit you can read if you’re so inclined, but the most interesting nugget I found was when he described the main challenges of making LED lights fade in and out:
“... A big setback came when its first scheduled installation into the Mazda3 was canceled because the light dimmed inconsistently. However, working with Mazda engineers and our supplier, Stanley Electric Co., Ltd., we repeatedly readjusted the signal light in 0.01 second increments, solved the problem and installed it successfully into the Mazda CX-30. …”
Stanley makes light bulbs for all kinds of cars and has been an OEM supplier for years. I found it odd that making LEDs fade would be so difficult—I popped an LED bulb replacement into the dome light of my ’06 Honda and it fades just as elegantly as the incandescent bulb did.
Designing the beat of the turn signal would have been a little more complicated, I suppose. Not only do turn signals need to comply with the U.S. government’s regulations (you can read the NHTSA’s 731-page document on the subject here), but they’ve also got to run at a consistent rate.
Regardless, I’m a big fan of Mazda’s aesthetic treatment here and I hope it gains popularity. Most modern blinkers have no chill, but these are quite nice to look at.
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