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VW’s electric ID.3 will talk to you using lights straight out of Knight Rider

The Volkswagen ID.3 is the first in a long-awaited line of electric cars from Germany’s largest automaker. But an electric powertrain isn’t the ID.3’s only high-tech feature. The car will also be able to communicate with people using lights. It may sounds like VW’s engineers have been watching too much Knight Rider, but the automaker claims it will change the way people interact with cars for the better.

Here’s how the light-based communication system works. An LED strip running across the dashboard changes colors depending on different functions. Green indicates a fully charged battery, for example, while red is used for warnings. The LED strip can also indicate whether the car is on, and whether the doors are locked or unlocked, according to Volkswagen. It can also sync up with the navigation system, blinking when the car thinks it’s time to change lanes. Talk about backseat driving.

“This use of light makes the vehicle more personable, and is a very simple and intuitive way of communicating,” Valentina Wilhelm, Volkswagen user experience designer, said in a statement.

VW has also discussed using exterior lights to convey messages to other drivers and pedestrians. The automaker’s I.Q. Light system uses LEDs to project arrows onto the road, indicating which direction the car is turning. The programmability of LEDs makes that possible; Mercedes-Benz even used the tech to give random people compliments. Stricter regulations, particularly in the United States, governing the shape and characteristics of headlights may make implementing some of these ideas difficult. But lights could give future self-driving cars a way to communicate with people, replacing hand gestures and eye contact between human drivers.

The ID.3 is the first of a family of electric cars based on Volkswagen’s new MEB platform. The little hatchback has a claimed range of up to 341 miles (on the more lenient European testing cycle, at least). While the ID.3 won’t be sold in the U.S., we will get several electric models based on the MEB platform, including a crossover based on the I.D. Crozz concept, and a modern version of the iconic VW Microbus, called the I.D. Buzz. It’s unclear if any of these cars will get the ID.3’s dashboard LED strip, though.

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