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Lighting the Road Ahead – Tech Tip Tuesday

Darrek Olson

Headlights are not usually the first thing that comes to mind when shopping for a vehicle. However, in the past few years, many advancements in lighting have been made in headlight technology that blows plain old headlights out of the water. These technologies make night driving much safer and brighter than it was in the past.

Lighting Technologies


Halogen bulbs have been around for about fifty years and are still the most common headlights installed in vehicles today. This is due to their low cost and versatility. There are a few common sockets that most cars use, making manufacturing costs even lower. The problem with halogen bulbs is that they are inefficient. They must heat to thousands of degrees to generate light, and most of the energy is wasted as heat.

 Headlights Halogen Lamps


HID lights, or high-intensity discharge lights, have been around for a few decades now. They are brighter, last longer, and use less electricity (once warmed up) than halogen bulbs. With all these advantages, they still haven’t become the new standard but are optional on many models. This is due to the increased complexity and cost of these bulbs compared to halogen.

2017 Cadillac CTS Sedan HID


LED (light emitting diode) technology has found its way into many products lately, and the automotive world is no exception. Headlights using LEDs are really starting to gain traction. This is because of their ultra-low power consumption and the ability to make custom “shapes” with the lights. Manufacturers of electric cars are always looking for ways to use less electricity. Also, the ability to make intricately shaped designs with lights now gives manufacturers the ability to stand out from the crowd. The issue with LEDs is the high production cost, mostly to create the custom housings, and also the heat generated is more difficult to manage than conventional solutions. Expect LED lighting to really take off in the next few years.

LED Headlamps


Laser headlights may sound like some futuristic tech that isn’t here yet, but it is! At least on a couple of models. Lasers have the advantage of being much more efficient and powerful than other existing technologies. They are also able to fit in a small package, giving many options to manufacturers. However, the technology is still in its infancy, which makes it prohibitively expensive for the time being. This will take some time to hit mainstream vehicles.

Ancillary Technologies

Adaptive Lighting

There are a few different solutions for lighting the road when turning. Some cars use ancillary lights or the fog lights to show around a corner. These systems generally are for helping with slow speed cornering. Other systems physically turn the headlight to help light the way when you turn. These help with visibility greatly in higher speed corners, but add complexity and cost to the lighting system. Other systems can sense oncoming traffic and use high beams and low beams accordingly.

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Adaptive Headlights

Considering adaptive headlights? Be sure to check out Adaptive Headlights 101.

Night Vision

Night vision has been slowly gaining steam as another way to see the road at night. For now, it doesn’t completely replace looking out the windshield of the car, but in the future, it may. Some night vision systems have a screen that shows the road ahead, while others just alert you when there is something in the path ahead that you should know about. Regardless, these systems are still fairly expensive but can be very helpful if you do a lot of driving in areas with wildlife and/or wild pedestrians.

Audi Night Vision Assistance

Lighting the Road Ahead

The IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) has added headlight ratings to their top safety picks for 2017. In order to achieve the highest score (Top Safety Pick +), a vehicle must now have an acceptable or good headlight rating. These ratings are the result of tests that measure headlight brightness over distance, around curves, and glare. Including headlights in the overall IIHS Top Safety Pick ratings pushes automakers to continue to improve lighting and enhance safety. The following seven 2017 vehicles received Good headlight evaluations:

While not all of these technologies are widely available yet, vehicles continue to get better at helping you see the road at night. And while most cars don’t have laser lights yet (pew pew), you can bet those cars will be available soon. Find your futuristic car at Carsforsale.com today!

Darrek Olson
Darrek Olson

Darrek is an enthusiast driver who values the journey more than the destination. A self-proclaimed Miata fanboy, his obscure knowledge of cars sometimes prevents him from remembering what he had for breakfast.

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