Car Talk: The Importance of a Job Well Done

The interior light on a Volvo XC90 – exceptionally well done!

This morning, I had the chance to reflect on a part of the car that I have really not thought much about: the interior lights. I’m not very proud of it, because in my last role, part of my team worked with interior lights. I regrettably didn’t dig very much into it, focusing on what I considered the more complex areas of connectivity and active safety.

This morning, I developed a deeper appreciation for the interior lights, and the difference it makes with a job well done.

I spend a lot of time when I am driving thinking about the user experience in the car, how easy (or difficult) it is to find what I want to find or control, without taking my eyes off the road.

I also think a lot about the active safety functions, and how well they work. How many false collision warnings, how smooth the adaptive cruise is in speeding up and slowing down, and finding the hidden functions. My husband and I have different driving styles, and he can get away with blaming his more aggressive braking and accelerating on the adaptive cruise in his Jeep Cherokee, but I call his bluff in the Volvo, which is as smooth as butter to quote a Southerner (unless collision avoidance kicks in).

I haven’t thought about the interior lights, other than expecting them to go on when I unlock the car, and then go off when locking the car or starting the engine. As long as that worked (and it always has in the production cars I have driven), I didn’t put any thought to them.

I especially wouldn’t think of using them when driving, or letting anyone else do it, given my experience in the 70’s and 80’s with blinding my parents in the various GM cars we had when I wanted to read late at night.

However, this morning driving to the bus-stop for my daughter’s school, she lost her socks after we were on the road. After several minutes of panicked searching (and acknowledging that she forgot to charge her phone to use its flashlight), I reluctantly told her to turn on the light for the front passenger seat.

I was very reluctant, as my night vision isn’t what it used to be (one of the few drawbacks of approaching 50). The street we were on regularly has joggers or pedestrians on the side of the road who have a preference for black or dark colours (and of course, no reflective clothing) and seem to like living life on the wild side by playing dodge-em with traffic.

It was to my surprise that the light came on, lit her footwell and lap, without affecting me at all.

Wow, I thought, that was well done. And, she quickly found her socks.

Some engineer at Volvo had obviously taken the time to tune and adjust the interior light such that it could be on and usable in the passenger seat with no discernible impact to the driver. Or perhaps, more than a single engineer, a team of people with varying expertise to make a truly exceptional interior light. One more small way Volvo was preventing anyone from dying in or around a Volvo.

It made me very happy, thinking about that.

And if you happen to read this and know who worked with the interior lights on the SPA XC90 (2017), please thank them for me!

And if you work with interior lights, or perhaps another less attention grabbing area of the car, realise that you can still cause immense satisfaction for your customer (or complete misery…). Your work matters!

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