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What Are Adaptive Headlights? How Do They Work?

cleaning headlight

Adaptive headlights are one of the newest options for car headlights. They are very bright and efficient, which makes it easier to see at night. However, they are also able to adapt to road conditions, including corners and traffic. This makes it far easier to drive around without getting into an accident.

However, how these lights work is a bit complicated. They are packed full of lots of technology, which can be quite complicated for the uninitiated. Let’s take an in-depth look at how these lights work to help you have a better understanding of their benefits.

divider 7 How Do They Work?

Adaptive headlights respond to changing conditions, providing you with more visibility and reaction time to avoid accidents. Actually, adaptive headlights can contain many different potential features, which all get lumped into the “adaptive” category. Often, how the light works will depend on the exact type of light feature your car has.

Some adaptive headlights are curve-adaptive, which means that they are mounted on motors or servos. Therefore, when you turn, these lights turn as well. The sensors detect how far you’ve turned the steering wheel. Other times, the light will also change in accordance with speed, which allows it to point further or closer depending on how fast the car is going.

Typically, automatic high beams use a sensor. They can detect headlights or streetlights, which signal the high beams to turn off. When the lights have passed, the high beams turn back on. Usually, these cats still allow for manual control of the beams if necessary.

Sometimes, this technology is extremely complex. Some adaptive headlights are made up of many, small LEDs. These LEDs adjust their brightness based on where it detects light. Therefore, the lights will be able to detect where other cars are on the road, adjust accordingly, and they can project low beams just on passing cars. Of course, this technology is very complicated.

car headlight repair
Image Credit: DiPres, Shutterstock

What are the Different Types of Adaptive Headlights?

There are many different types of adaptive headlights. Firstly, cornering lights are some of the most popular lights out there. These lights adapt to the turning of the steering wheel, which allows them to turn with the road as well. Therefore, they illuminate around curves and corners instead of just straight ahead.

Cornering lights are sometimes also called curve-adaptive lights. However, these lights usually involve auxiliary lights around the headlight that turn on when you are cornering. They are older than curve-adaptive headlights and not as common anymore.

Cornering lights are actually fixed in place. They simply activate when the steering wheel is turned. Therefore, it may seem like the light is moving, but they really aren’t. These are often cheaper and require less maintenance. You’ll mostly find these headlights in older cars.

Automatic high beams are another common adaptive headlight. These headlights automatically dim themselves when they detect light—either from a car or a streetlamp. Unlike most cars, the high beams are on by default and have to be disengaged. These headlights also let you manually control the brightness when necessary.

The newest and most advanced form of adaptive headlights are adaptive driving beams, often called ADB. These beams are currently not allowed in the USA because they are too new. They have not been approved for use in the United States because they do not have traditional low beams and high beams.

These lights are made up of many bright LEDs, which can be controlled individually. When a sensor detects light from another car, the lights shining on that car are dimmed, but the others maintain their full brightness. Each LED adjusts as the car moves around, providing maximum illumination while not dazzling other drivers.

LED headlight
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Advantages of Adaptive Headlights

Adaptive headlights illuminate roadways much better than normal headlights because they can adapt to the changing conditions of the road. Furthermore, they are less prone to user error because they take some of the manual control and make it automatic. The driver doesn’t have to worry about adapting the lights to oncoming traffic, for instance.

These lights often lead to less glare from incoming traffic, as they stay pointed on the road. They can also prevent blinding drivers when you go around curves if the lights are curve-adaptive. Of course, this helps prevent accidents and increases safety.

For those that put a premium on safety, these lights may be exactly what you’re looking for.

Disadvantages of Adaptive Headlights

The main problem with these headlights is that they are more expensive to purchase and maintain. It is also nearly impossible to install them in a car unless it comes made to accept them. You can sometimes adjust a car to take adaptive headlights. However, this isn’t always the case and often costs quite a bit of money.

With more moving parts, these lights are also more likely to break. There are often more moving parts, which means that things break more often. Therefore, the upfront and long-term costs of these lights are often more.

However, from a functional standpoint, these lights are completely better than regular headlights. There are a few reasons why you wouldn’t want them on your car—except that they are more expensive than other lights out there.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Know If My Car has Adaptive Headlights?

You’ll know if your headlights are adaptive if they adapt to the road. For instance, curve-adaptive headlights will turn when you turn the steering wheel. Other adaptive lights will dim when they notice the light from a passing car or a streetlight.

It is also pretty easy to tell when a car has adaptive headlights because the headlights will change and do things that aren’t completely under manual control. If your lights brighten and dim on their own, you have adaptive headlights.

You can also check your car’s manual, which should explain what headlights you have. A quick Google of your make and model may also provide an explanation of the headlights.

Why are Adaptive Headlights Illegal?

Some adaptive headlights are illegal because they do not fit the requirements of a headlight on paper. For instance, all cars must have low and high beams. Many of these lights have LEDs that adjust individually. Therefore, they have many different settings—not just high and low settings.

Because they don’t have different beams, they are illegal, but this may shift in future years if the definition changes, as these headlights are becoming more popular.

Car headlight
Image By: wilkernet, Pixabay

Are Adaptive Headlights Worth It?

It depends on how you drive. These cars provide extra visibility and can be very helpful in lowlight situations. However, if you don’t usually drive at night, they may not be very useful. They are better for those who drive often at night and really don’t like driving in dim situations.

If you live in an area with very curvy roads, then curve-adaptive headlights are likely very useful. Simply driving on the interstate often doesn’t require these adaptive headlights.

divider 7 Conclusion

Adaptive headlights are the newest craze in the car world. They make it much easier to see at night and help you avoid accidents. Therefore, they can be extremely useful for those that drive often at night or don’t like driving at night. If you get anxious while driving in low-light conditions, adaptive headlights can help.

However, they can be quite expensive in many cases and they aren’t usually standard on all cars. It is painfully difficult to install them on cars that aren’t made to come with them, to begin with.

Featured Image Credit: hedgehog94, Shutterstock


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