How to make emergency flasher hazard lights much better
This simple safety technology hasn't changed much in generations, but it may soon.
Brian CooleyEditor at Large
Brian Cooley is CNET's Editor at large and has been with the brand since 1995. He currently focuses on electrification of vehicles but also follows the big trends in smart home, digital healthcare, 5G, the future of food, and augmented & virtual realities. Cooley is a sought after presenter by brands and their agencies when they want to understand how consumers react to new technologies. He has been a regular featured speaker at CES, Cannes Lions, Advertising Week and the Publicis HealthFront. He was born and raised in Silicon Valley when Apple's campus was mostly apricots.
ExpertiseAutomotive technology, smart home, digital health.Credentials
Your car's flashing hazard lights are pretty simple, right? You push a button, they flash; you push the button again and they stop. But that simple system is more nuanced than you might think -- and way overdue for an update. Here's how your emergency hazard flashers might be improved in the near future to keep you safe.
The first step to reduce those numbers might be a faster, more visually arresting flash rate. A company called Emergency Safety Solutions is focused on getting that and other improvements allowed by federal vehicle regulations and then adopted by carmakers. Its technology patent includes a two-setting button for slower or faster flash rate, depending on the situation your car is in. Its tech would also trigger the flashers automatically in an accident.
Research by NASA's Color Usage Research Lab tells us the size and shape of any warning indicator, like a car's hazard flasher, makes a difference in perception of alerts. But in cars we're largely stuck with whatever size and shape of taillight the stylists chose for the car's look, not a shape that makes for the most effective warning icon.
And studies dating back as far as 1953 indicate that amber and green light registers best in our center of vision while blue seems to register better in our peripheral vision. But, of course, yellow and green are already taken by traffic signals and blue is exclusively used by law enforcement, so our cars are usually stuck with the red lights that are already available in the form of brake and tail lights.
Watch my video for the story behind the move to modernize emergency flashers and learn how your car might already have better features, by sheer accident.