If you’ve been behind a brand new Audi recently, you’ve probably noticed that a portion of the turn signal lights up in a little line that shows what direction the car is turning. If you put on the left turn signal, the line starts from the inside portion of the signal and stretches outwards, towards the left side of the car, indicating a left turn. It’s genius.
Except … it’s illegal.
According to federal regulations, this sort of turn signal isn’t allowed, for one simple reason: The regulation governs precisely how much turn signal must illuminate as the signal is turned on, and a little directional line isn’t enough lit surface area in the first "flash" of the turn signal. I’m not sure exactly how much surface area has to be lit in that first flash, but it’s not a small figure. If you want your turn signals to light up in sequence, the first light has to be very large — which is how the Ford Mustang gets away with its distinctive repeating turn signals, all of which are rather large. But a "line" of light isn’t enough surface area in that very first flash.
It’s a stupid regulation, of course — just like many federal regulations. But we abide by them, and nobody really knows about them except for engineers and designers, who have to figure out ways around them.
Or, in many cases, they just give up. That’s what happened with the Lexus RX, which also uses a cool "line of lights" turn signal in foreign markets. In the US, however, the line doesn’t illuminate enough light on the first flash, so Lexus just bagged it and the whole thing lights up. Goodbye, cool turn signal. Godspeed.
Audi, however, was more clever. Audi devised a workaround.
When you go to switch on the turn signal in a modern Audi, what you’ll find is that the signal does two things at once. The top half of the signal blinks like a normal turn signal, thereby satisfying the federal regulation for "first flash" surface area: the first flash is large and bright, just like any normal turn signal would be.
The cool bit is what comes next — the bottom half of the turn signal. Simultaneous with that first flash, the bottom half is lighting up as a little line of lights, just as Audi intended. In other words: the top half actually satisfies the regulation, and the bottom half is just there to look cool. And, oh boy, does it ever look cool. To see what I mean, go to 45 seconds in the video above, and watch closely: the top half lights up, like a normal turn signal, and the bottom half has its fun to catch your attention.
It’s a brilliant workaround to a problem that shouldn’t exist — and I’m thrilled that Audi conjured up the attention to detail to keep the cool line of lights, rather than just giving up and moving on. Find an Audi for sale