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Explaining headlight assistance technology (part 1)


We did talk a while back about the different ways that headlights produce light and compared them to each other so today we’ll look into the various headlight assistance technologies out there, and try to explain how they work.

Adaptive or directional headlights

Regular, traditional static headlights will always point straight ahead, and that’s great where you also have the advatnage of street lighting, but when dealing with much darker and winding country roads, that can turn into a bit of an issue.

This is where adaptive or directional headlights came in to solve that problem by allowing the headlight projectors to turn.

The car’s electronics track the direction of the car as well as its speed, rotation and the angle of the steering wheel. When changes occur small electric motors can turn the projectors by up to 15 degrees in order to match the vehicle’s intended direction. This means that the headlights will almost always light up the road in front of you, not the cane field alongside the road.

In order to prevent other road users or pedestrians from being blinded by the unexpected swivel of the projector, most adaptive headlights systems will only kick into gear after a certain speed is surpassed.

While we might associate this technology with modern HID or xenon headlights, the idea actually started back in the 1960s, when the Citroen DS had a its high-beams lights mechanically linked to the steerign wheel, which meant that turning the wheel would also turn the headlights.

Due to technological limitation, cost and legislative problems, this approach never really took off but the idea stayed with car manufacturers until the rise of powerful on-board computers and cheap electronics made it possible, easier and cheaper to implement.

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