Ambient Car Lights Increase Functionality, Safety

Ambient interior lighting, which is increasingly popular among luxury vehicles, may do more than just look cool according to a recent study. This study, which was done by engineers from BMW in cooperation with the Ilmenau University of Technology’s Lighting Engineering Group, suggests that interior lighting performs a number of safety-related functions. While you’re not likely to see ambient interior lighting provide a discount on your car insurance quotes yet, that may be something that’s coming down the road, if this data holds up to scrutiny.

Specifically, ambient car lighting is thought to:

  • Intensify special perception, making drivers more observant of distances between their car and other cars on the road, other objects in the roadway and the road itself.
  • Enhance the perceived quality of materials. While this doesn’t have a direct impact on safety, there is some evidence to suggest that it makes the driver more comfortable, and more able to utilize the vehicle as an extension of the driver’s own body, increasing driving accuracy.
  • Makes drivers feel safer. This aspect of the study is perhaps the most controversial. There is one school of thought that suggests drivers who feel safer may make riskier driving decisions. On the other hand, that feeling of safety may lead to the driver being more in control and aware of her surroundings, instead.

The study suggests that blue lighting is more effective for drivers than orange or red lighting, which have often been used in the past. This may lead to manufacturers sticking with less bright light.

The study suggests that too much ambient light is distracting to drivers, however, due to glare. Dim lights that are placed strategically in the vehicle tend to be helpful, and probably more helpful than a number of brighter lights.

Ambient lighting is coming down the line to less luxurious vehicles, too. It’s becoming standard on many models, and is an option on just about any kind of car you might be looking into buying. Ford, for example, offers ambient lighting options on nearly every vehicle in its fleet, while it is standard on all BMW and Audi models.

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