Skip to main content

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

Image used with permission by copyright holder

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.

Editors' Recommendations

Stephen Edelstein
Stephen is a freelance automotive journalist covering all things cars. He likes anything with four wheels, from classic cars…
Here’s how Volkswagen plans to electrify America’s most popular car segment
Volkswagen ID.4 prototype

The electric, Tiguan-sized ID.4 is a family-friendly crossover that will launch Volkswagen's electrification offensive in the United States. It won't make its full debut until later in 2020, but the German carmaker released images of a thinly camouflaged prototype to give us an idea of how the ID.Crozz concept has changed on its way to production.

The ID.4 rides on the same modular MEB platform as the ID.3, a Golf-sized hatchback not coming to America. It's a highly flexible architecture Volkswagen developed in house from scratch specifically to underpin electric cars. The ID.Buggy that I drove in California in 2019 was also built on MEB, as were all of the ID-badged concepts shown over the past couple of years. The platform uses a single electric motor mounted over the rear axle in its standard configuration, but making it all-wheel drive is as simple as adding a second motor that spins the front wheels.

Read more
Too hip for a minivan? Check out VW’s all-electric ID.Space Vizzion concept

Volkswagen unveiled yet another concept car in its ID series of electric vehicles at the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show. With previous ID concepts showcasing hatchback, crossover, and even dune buggy designs, you'd think VW would be out of ideas. But the Volkswagen ID.Space Vizzion promises something different. Previewing a possible production model that could launch in 2021, Volkswagen claims it will defy categorization.

The ID.Space Vizzion will combine "the aerodynamic characteristics of a Gran Turismo with the spaciousness of an SUV," according to Volkswagen. The concept car has a tall, upright roofline, but without the ground clearance normally associated with SUVs. It looks a bit like the recently discontinued Ford Flex, which also tried to combine car and SUV styling elements. It also means the ID.Space Vizzion looks a bit like a minivan without sliding doors.

Read more
Volkswagen CEO says ID.3 will be 40% cheaper to make than the e-Golf
2020 volkswagen id 3 electric car orders open first edition detailed vw official 1

Herbert Diess, Volkswagen's chief executive, addressed investors Monday to announce that the company's new ID.3 electric vehicle will be 40 percent cheaper to build than the e-Golf. Concentrating on using the battery platform to also handle structural rigidity accounts for much of the savings. The electric Golf was a conversion of an internal combustion engine version of the Golf that wasn’t optimized for an electric powertrain.

“If you focus on an electric platform, all in all, it accounts for a 40% reduction against the predecessor electric Golf,” Diess said, “most of it from cells and the battery system.”

Read more