Adaptive Headlights

As vehicles become more autonomous, we are already seeing cars equipped with headlights that automatically adjust to a car’s position to keep lights on the road ahead and not in the eyes of other drivers.  

Adaptive headlights react to the steering, speed and elevation of the car, and automatically adjust to give the driver a clear view of the road ahead. The car lights turn their beams around each bend in the road, giving the driver a better view. Since adaptive headlights are directed at the road, glare of oncoming headlights is reduced for other drivers.

Self-Leveling System Included with Adaptive Headlights

Most adaptive headlights also include a self-leveling system, with a sensor that determines if the car is tilted forward or back. Driving over a bump, as the front of the car lifts up, electric servomotors in the headlights react to the level sensors and keep the headlights aimed down at the road.

Availability of Adaptive Headlights in the US

While already required on new cars in Europe, self-leveling headlights are only required on U.S. cars equipped with bi-xenon headlights, which are so bright that they would blind other drivers if they didn’t level themselves. At this time, adaptive headlights are not standard equipment on most cars in the U.S., and only a few companies offer them as options.

Adaptive Cornering Lights Featured on Some Models

Some BMW models are equipped with cornering lights. If a car has fog lights, small reflectors swivel to direct the fog lights off to the side. Without fog lights, a side-directed lamp is installed with the headlights. When the car is moving slower than 25 mph and turning, the cornering lights can illuminate up to 80 degrees of additional area to the side of the car. When the car speeds up or finishes turning, the lights automatically turn off. If the car is not moving or is moving in reverse, the adaptive headlights will not activate, keeping the lights from blinding other drivers.

Adaptive Brake Lights Coming in the Future

In the next few years production models will appear that feature adaptive brake lights, which will allow drivers to see not just a car in front applying the brakes, but how hard the driver is applying the brakes. This will give drivers an indication of trouble ahead and how much they need to slow down. When a driver presses hard on the brakes, a brighter brake light turns on, while lesser degrees of braking force results in brightness in between “normal” and “full stop.”

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