I just drove the 2023 Chevrolet Colorado, The Bowtie’s fresh new midsize truck aiming to take on the Toyota Tacoma, and while I’ll publish a full review soon, for now we need to talk about the headlight switch.
The vast majority of cars have their headlight switch in one of two locations: The left side of the steering wheel on the dashboard, or on a stalk mounted to the steering column. Here’s a look at the outgoing, 2022, Chevy Colorado’s headlight switch, which lets you turn the lights off, activate
This switch allows you to turn the headlights off, leave them in “auto,” turn on just the parking lights, or turn them on. Plus, a push in the center turns on the fog lights:
The second common headlight switch location is the column-mounted. This is where the Toyota Tacoma, the vehicle whose sales Chevy really wants to encroach upon with the new Colorado, has its lighting control stalk:
You twist the end of the stalk to turn the lights off and on, to turn on only the parking lights, to turn off the daytime running lights, to put the switch into auto mode, etc. You’re probably all familiar with this.
The new Chevrolet Colorado, as my co-driver at the first-drive event (and boss at A Girl’s Guide to Cars) Scott Reiss pointed out, forgoes these rather intuitive headlight switch concepts for something that especially truck customers might find a bit surprising:
That’s right. The headlight switch is part of the infotainment screen!
From the home screen, you press a lightbulb at the top, and that will open up the headlight “toolbar” (that’s what I’m calling it), which offers the following modes: off, auto, parking lights, on. The toolbar only remains in place for a few seconds after you press the little bulb icon, then it disappears. It’s worth noting that the high beams are actuated via the stalk mounted on the left side of the steering column, so that’s still fairly traditional:
Overall, it’s a rather peculiar headlight switch setup, but the lack of a physical switch isn’t specific to the new Colorado. I bet you can guess which other brand is doing it:
That’s right — Tesla’s headlight switch is also located in the infotainment display. I can’t off the top of my head think of other mainstream car brands with this setup, but I bet there are a few.
I spoke with a Chevrolet spokesperson about the brand’s decision to forego a physical headlight switch in favor of the touchscreen, and he told me it comes down to OTA, or over-the-air update capability. Per the spokesperson, allowing the infotainment system to actuate the headlights means Chevrolet has wireless access to the headlights, should the brand decide it wants to install some kind of update that affects the headlight function.
I don’t mean to suggest that Chevy is going to go in this silly direction, but it’s worth noting that Tesla’s “Holiday Mode” light show function was an over-the-air update:
I don’t see why one couldn’t have both a physical switch (perhaps a “fake” mechanical switch that works through the infotainment system, and is not an actual mechanical switch that directly actuates relays to send current to the lights) and OTA capability, but in any case, this is the route Chevy chose to take.
I don’t think it’s a massive deal given that most folks will keep their vehicle in “auto” mode 99 percent of the time, but at the same time, I think it’s going to receive more criticism in this application than it does in a Tesla. The Colorado is a truck, after all, and if you look at the transmission shifter (shown above) in the truck — an electronic, center tunnel-mounted shifter that mimics the look and feel of an old mechanical PRNDL — it’s clear GM understands that truck customers like chunky things, even if they’re not entirely logical (the shifter is a waste of space). It is worth noting that the electric park brake shown above represents a shift away from a chunky pedal or hand-actuated lever, but few folks use park brakes on automatic-equipped cars, anyway. Are most folks entirely onboard with “set and forget” automatic headlights? I’m not quite sure yet; I wouldn’t be surprised if Chevy sees a bit of backlash for the screen-accessed headlight “switch.”
IMO all cars should have auto headlights (if not required in US already) and they should all function like previous Volvos ive owned (and current Mazdas). auto = headlights on full time. Only the rear and marker lighting is based on ambient lighting conditions (e.g. they go on/off with daylight). Although im not a fan of touchscreens in cars in general – this particular case doesnt irk me as much because you rarely ever need mess with auto lighting. I cant remember the last time i needed to do so – maybe a drive in theater (yeah one still exists in my neck of the woods).
I drive a Volvo – in Canada, the lights are always on and can’t be turned off (without reprogramming….USA models get different software which allows the lights to be turned off). You can still set the parking lights while the engine is off. The only time I need the switch is to turn off lights at a drive-in movie or parking at a dark-sky area.
Touchscreens give a terrible user experience in a car…. I don’t want any critical controls on a screen…. but headlight controls are not the absolute worst to move to a screen. The shitty automatic high-beam systems are the worst, and having to dig through menus to turn these off.
Climate and defrost controls and basic audio controls need to be physical buttons/knobs.
There are things that shouldn’t be in the screen – Climate controls and volume control lead that list. This doesn’t bother me. On our vehicles we have the lights set on auto and leave them that way 99% of the time.
I never touch the switch in my Silverado. It just sits there on auto all the time.
Am I alone in seeing new cars driving around without headlights? I can see that in these cases the dash is lit (Automatic? Always on?) I don’t care where the light switch is these days, IMO the head lights should just be automatic, as it seems a decent number of people don’t bother turning them on.
As a runner/walker/bike rider who gets pissed off when I approach cars/trucks parked on the side of the road head on with the lights blinding me because owners have forgotten how to turn their lights off or can’t imagine how they could possibly inconvenience anyone else, I take exception to the comments from folks who are proud of the fact that they haven’t touched the headlight switch since they bought their car/truck and put the switch in the auto position.
Turn your lights on at night and run towards your vehicle from half a block away and let me know how it goes. You’ll probably have to slow down to a walk to insure you don’t trip on a sidewalk crack or pothole in the road.
It’s bad enough when you’re running against vehicles driving normally in the road and you have to deal with the headlights for a couple of seconds, but sitting parked against the curb makes it even worse.
Learn to use the headlight off switch please.
P.S. I know some will advise me to stop running at night, but it’s hard when the sun sets at 4:00 during the winter. If you’re an avid runner/walker/bike rider, you will end up in the dark at some point.
While sort of a tangent, bare (bear??) with me.. The difference between my WRX’s daytime running lights and the headlights is like one candle power (I do not know how they manage it, it’s a standard 2 filament bulb) however the reason I mention it is the DTRL turn off with the parking brake. I usually don’t bother with the actual headlights because the running lights are as bright. So for myself the this is a fine system. I think there is a time to give up on people’s abilities to live outside their bubble and make engineering decisiions for them. This could be one..
Are you saying you drive around at night with ONLY your DRLs? If so, you need to use your actual headlights. DRLs are front only, so the back of your car is a blob of darkness in the night. No one can see the ass-end of a DRL-only car at night.
As much as I hate moving things that should have a physical button to the center screen, this one doesn’t bother me that much (with the exception of GM’s reasoning – as noted elsewhere the safety critical headlights should not go through the relatively fragile infotainment system – and really what are you going to OTA with the headlights??). The only time I use my headlight switch is after it comes back from the shop and they turned it off so they could work on the car without lots of reflections.
On the other hand, I am not going to buy a Macan or Cayenne due to their stupid embrace of the glass cockpit -even with the supposed haptic feedback. Give me damn buttons so I can keep my eye on the Road. With the exception that using the radio on the Mazda system is a huge pain in the ass, I think Mazda had it about right. Their addition of the volume knob next to their I-drive style knob is a big improvement over BMW’s solution.
BMW had been doing things right, but seems to be going the wrong way. I hate their switch from circular knobs to push buttons for the hvac temp control, and their new cockpit on the X1 is terrible. I had been hoping they would eventually fix their electric steering so I could jump back into a new BMW, but now I may have to deal with a Cadillac dealer (no good ones left anywhere near me) to check out a CTS-V.
No, hate this. My experience with recent-ish GM vehicles is that they can’t be trusted to implement non essential items like infotainment and climate control within a touch screen interface reliably, let alone vital safety related functions of the car. You could argue that climate control is safety related as it incorporates the windscreen de-mister but at least wipers exist and you can still drive the damn car. Without headlights, obviously the vehicle is unusable for a significant portion of each revolution of the earth.
I’m sure GM have improved their touchscreen based systems since the diabolical “Holden MyLink” in my now late 2013 Cruze. I mean, I can see GM are focused on continuous product improvement. My 2002 Commodore, for instance, had an interior with build quality almost on par with an 80’s Corolla. By the time I had my 2013 Cruze, the interior quality was approaching that of a 1997 Camry! Okay, not a top of the range Grande, but at least a midrange CSX.
Now, I’m not totally anti-touchscreen in cars. After all, I went out of my way to install a touch screen infotainment system in the one car in my garage that didn’t have one. The thing is, it is providing audio and navigation only – nothing safety critical. Okay, my now screen equipped car now has a reversing camera but if that shits the bed, I can still use the mirrors or look over my shoulder.
No, GM, that’s a bad GM. Stay away from the fucking touch screens.
They aren’t particularly good at switches either.
Totally fine with this. I have that Tesla Model 3 mentioned here, and I don’t think in the 4.5 years I’ve owned the car that I’ve ever changed it off of Auto. I can say the same thing about the physical headlight mode dial in my Pontiac G8: in my 13+ years with the car, I don’t think I’ve ever twisted it off Auto except just to see what the knob did. The most interesting discussion is how in the world not all cars have an Auto mode. We also have a 2015 Mazda6 which has a manual knob, because the auto headlight switch was a paid option (?!), and my 2015 Fiat 500 Abarth also is a manual knob only. Even my 1995 Pontiac Bonneville had auto headlights!
What kind of a reprobate doesn’t use the hand brake even with the transmission in Park? Wtf do they think it’s for?
The kind that mostly drives and parks on flat land, in a vehicle with a properly operational parking pawl?
That bright/wiper switch looks so cheap, does GM still make switchgear that feels gravelly and like it is going to break as likely as “switch” everytime you use it?
As far as the headlight thing. I personally wouldn’t like it, but I think a majority of the driving public doesn’t even know the have a headlight switch anymore, they just think they work automatically. Manual switch for the brights shows GM thought about this a little bit.