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The Biggest Issue In Modern Taillightdom Still Rages On And GM Remains Silent

Illustration for article titled The Biggest Issue In Modern Taillightdom Still Rages On And GM Remains Silent

Those of us active in the Global Taillight Community understand that there will always be some level of discord happening. There’s the issue of America’s unilateral rejection of the amber-only rear turn indicator that shows no signs of abating, for example. In recent years, though, there’s been one taillight-related issue that seems to cause more rage than any other, and it also hails from America. It’s GM’s use of reverse lamps for remote lock/unlock signaling.


Reverse lamps are the most recent legally-mandated addition to the Taillight Trinity (Brake/tail, turn, and reverse), coming in 1967, and only one is legally required.

In my writings about reverse lamps previously, I’ve discovered that these humble, rarely-considered lamps are capable of generating a surprising amount of passion, such as how they’re referred to, as you can see in this comment from a 2013 article I wrote about the history of these lights:

Illustration for article titled The Biggest Issue In Modern Taillightdom Still Rages On And GM Remains Silent

Woah, easy dude! I mean, I’m not going to get on this guy too hard because I believe people with actual opinions about taillights make up a significant portion of my readership, so, okay, buddy, back-up lights.

Once, in Bristol, England, I met up with a Reliant Scimitar owners’ group and mentioned “back-up lights” and they looked at me like I was fucking insane, so since then I’ve personally used “reverse lights.” But I’m okay with either!

That same article’s top-rated comment was this one:

Illustration for article titled The Biggest Issue In Modern Taillightdom Still Rages On And GM Remains Silent

The issue it’s referring to is that GM cars tend to illuminate their reverse lights (um, back-up lights, sorry) when they are remotely locked or unlocked.

This practice seems to be universally hated, into this day.

The issue is that if you’re driving around in a parking lot, you’re keeping an eye open for illuminated reverse lamps because A. you don’t want a car to run into you, and 2. you’re likely hunting for someone about to leave their spot, so you can swoop in and occupy it.


That means that when someone parks and clicks their fob and walks away from their GM vehicle, that vehicle will be sending some very confusing messages to anyone around the car, specifically, the message that the car is occupied, running, and about to reverse, when, in fact, the (ironically) reverse is true: the car is unoccupied and not going anywhere.

The result of this is that people see the reverse lights, slow down or stop to determine if the car is, in fact, occupied and about to leave, often a tricky prospect for, say, a large SUV with tinted windows.


Traffic slows down, people get unwittingly duped, everyone comes out of the experience less happy and more enraged. No good comes of it.

It seems that this issue is just about universally hated, bringing the Taillightdom together, in rage, in a way previously never before seen. Since those comments in 2013, articles and forum posts and videos have lamented this practice, over and over.


Yes, there is a way to defeat this deep in the settings of GM cars, but that’s hardly the point. Humanity’s consensus is that this practice is terrible, just terrible, and having it on by default still, after all these years of outcry, seems untenable.

I can imagine GM’s initial thinking here: the reverse lamp is likely the brightest, clearest lamp on the rear of the car, and as such is best able to provide illumination. But you would think after a bit of user-testing and feedback they’d realize that the problems outweigh any illumination benefit.


I reached out to GM for comment, and will update if I hear anything back. I suspect if they’ve remained silent for about seven years and counting, though, they’re not likely to start talking now.

But maybe. We’ll see. I consider myself a servant of the Taillightsphere, and as such I’m happy to play advocate. We’ll get through this, together, as we always have before.

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!:

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This honestly never bothered me and I don’t get the hate.

What does bug me, and is taillight related, is your typical C class/A4 driver not even knowing their car has a rear fog light. They drive around all day and night with one taillight blinding anyone who dares follow them, because they don’t know what a rear fog light is, that their car has one, or how to control it.