Why not switch the two lights?

Jason Torchinsky writes that the left-turn signal on the back of the Mini has an arrow that points to the right while the right-turn signal points to the left.

The reason for this design choice is so that the two lights taken together is supposed to look like the British flag, the Union Jack.

If the idea was to playfully invoke the image of the Union Jack, it failed as far as I was concerned because I did not recognize the two lights as the flag until it was pointed out to me. A representative from the company said that he did not think other drivers would be confused as to the direction in which the car was planning to move. That may well be so but it does seem to be an unnecessary distraction. Switching the two designs would be simple and make a lot more sense.


  1. says

    A representative from the company said that he did not think other drivers would be confused as to the direction in which the car was planning to move.

    He has more confidence in drivers paying close enough attention than I do.

  2. prl says

    Doesn’t anyone else find it amusing that the only time the Mini would actually display the “Union Jack” shape is when the hazard warning lights are used?

  3. flex says

    Okay, probably not the stupidest design choice I’ve ever seen, but it ranks well up there. This will cause accidents at a greater frequency than if the drivers didn’t use the turn signal at all.

    Either the management team for the Mini has ignored all the advice from the engineering, quality, and safety departments, or there are no experienced (i.e. 10+ years of design experience) engineers left in the company.

  4. Bruce says

    All Mini design problems will soon be solved by Boris Johnson and his Brexit party. Step one was to lie to Northern Ireland and force them to develop closer ties with the Republic of Ireland, so that they reunify and leave the UK (because Boris only cares about holding power by helping the English 1% evade EU tax regulations). Step two will be to likewise persuade Scotland to leave the Union and stop bothering him with fair or sensible ideas. The, in step three, next year or in 2023, Boris can point out that they have to redraw the Union Jack flag to show that the UK is just the United Kingdom of England and Wales. Thus, with no diagonal elements left in the UK flag, the Mini won’t want that design in the car it makes for domestic use and for export to only Wales.

  5. pwdm says

    Have others noticed the different conventions for indicating the direction to get to airports when driving. In the USA (in my limited experience) the most common method is to have a (topview) picture of an airplane mounted on a pole with an arrow mounted below, pointing in the direction you are to drive. The airplane usually points straight ahead and the arrow will point left, right or straight as needed. By contrast, in Canada the airplance picture is simply mounted so it points in the direction of required travel with no (confusing/complicating?) arrow required.

  6. sonofrojblake says

    Nobody going to point out the irony that the car in question is a BMW, a brand which is
    (a) German and
    (b) famously driven exclusively by arseholes who never use their indicators?

  7. Holms says

    Silly, but I doubt anyone will actually be confused by this. We judge which way a person is turning by the side the blinker is on, not by its shape. Other blinker designs stand out as much worse:
    USA and Canada permits the combining of brake and blinker functions, by putting them in a single red light on each brake light position. If the brake lights are on to indicate the person is braking and the person then wishes to indicate a turn, the brake light on that side will begin flashing. No separate amber light is necessary.
    USA and Canada also have no requirement that a car have any side mounted blinkers. Manufacturers often include them anyway, either by wrapping the usual blinkers around the corners of the car or by putting blinkers on the side mirrors, but still.
    Animated blinkers which use many small leds to animate in sequence to create an animated signal, rather than just turning on and off together. Some I’ve seen have been ridiculously elaborate.

  8. sonofrojblake says

    A representative from the company said that he did not think other drivers would be confused

    Translation: a representative from the (German) company showed commendable and enormous restraint when asked a truly fucking stupid question.

    it does seem to be an unnecessary distraction.

    In fact, it may be a deliberate design choice and a functional distraction, in the same way those “animated” indicators you see more and more of nowadays are.

    Consider: the entire POINT of an indicator light on a vehicle is to operate as a distraction from whatever else it was that had your attention at that moment -- the speedometer, the rev counter, the radio/iPod/other entertainment option, the quality of the blowjob you’re currently receiving, or Bod forbid the view out of the front window of the car you’re supposed to be driving.
    Therefore there’s a hierarchy of how good a light could be at that job, as follows:
    1. no light -- driver sticks their arm out to indicate and impending turn.
    2. a tiny little mechanical arm that drops down out of the appropriate side of the vehicle (a friend of mine still drives a car that has one of these. He starts it with a handle.)
    3. a light the same colour as all the other lights (brake lights, running lights) that just comes on and stays on til you cancel it. This would be rubbish and easily missed.
    4. a light the same colour as all the others that FLASHES on and off (such as the USA reportedly uses, see above). Still pretty rubbish.
    5. a light of a different colour, a colour used ONLY for this function, that addtionally flashes on and off. Standard on almost all cars for decades.
    6. a light of a different colour AND an unusual shape, which flashes on and off. A slight development from (5).
    7. a strip of lights of the now-standard other colour that lights up in a pattern.

    I was going to say -- put it this way, the person who took the video didn’t miss the turn signal/hazard warning, did they? Then I actually watched the video, in which (in case you’ve not seen it and just gone by the preview) and noted that what’s actually happening is that the right indicator is stuck on, and the left is flashing. This is neither turn signal NOR hazard warning, and therefore absolutely does deserve a “seriously?”. It is not, however, a questionable design decision, it’s a fault that should be fixed.

  9. Marja Erwin says

    Okay, I’m confused here.

    To see which side of the car it’s on, you’d have to be able to see into the gray blur around a flashing light.

    To be safe around these safety signals, you’d have to avoid the usual disorientation, nausea, and migraines from a flashing light. I sometimes end up falling or stumbling into the stroad because of these. And the seizures from the faster ones. I once lost awareness after being hit by one strobe light, trying to turn away, and getting hit by another strobe light, and then regained awareness 2 lanes into a 7-lane stroad.

    How is any of this supposed to work?

  10. Holms says

    what’s actually happening is that the right indicator is stuck on, and the left is flashing.

    Not quite. It’s an example of what I mentioned above: the brake light and blinker functions have been combined. Those are both brake/tail lights, and the left one is blinking because the person is indicating a left turn.

    It’s common in USA I am told, and yes, it is dangerously uncommunicative.

  11. sonofrojblake says

    @Marja Erwin, 9: with the greatest respect, if you consider a car indicator to be a “strobe light”, and if it induces those kinds of symptoms in you, you really probably shouldn’t be out unaccompanied. You definitely shouldn’t go anywhere near a “stroad”.

    @Holms, 10: False. You’re wrong. It may be common in the USA, but Germans don’t build cars like that.Those are NOT brake/tail lights. The brake/tail lights are the red bits in between the orange. The lights in the video are in fault, and are definitely not designed to operate as depicted. I assume you’ve never seen a Mini, rather than, for instance, seeing at least three or four on the road every single day like I do.

  12. Holms says

    #11 sonof “It may be common in the USA, but Germans don’t build cars like that.”
    They do for cars that are to be sold in North America. Notice the video is uploaded by a Texan. How many US-market Minis do you see a day?

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