Adaptive Headlights

Adaptive Headlights Ratings

What Is It?
Adaptive headlights adjust their direction and intensity in response to the driver’s steering to provide additional light on curves, turns, hills, or to highlight potential hazards.

Why Did Adaptive Headlights Earn a 3-Solid & 5-Open Star Rating for Safety onDark Curves?

An analysis of the potential for Adaptive Headlights to provide a safety benefit estimated that they are theoretically relevant to 90% of the crashes that occur on curves at night (91% for nonfatal injury crashes; 88% for fatal crashes). This high potential yields a top open-star rating. To date, however, little evidence exists proving such high benefits in the real world, though insurance claims data comparing vehicles with and without Adaptive Headlights generates a conservative 3 solid star rating.

Why did Adaptive Headlights Earn a 1-Solid & 2-Open Star Overall Benefit Rating?

The estimates for crash and fatality prevention on curves at night translate to an overall maximum safety benefit potential across all crash types of: 8% for fatalities, 4% for injuries, and 2% for crashes. This qualifies for 2 open stars. Real-world insurance data indicating a 5-10% drop in claims for vehicles with Adaptive Headlights (compared to those without them) indicates a 1-solid star rating for proven real-world benefit.

Why Would I Use This Technology?

Adaptive headlights adjust their direction and intensity to provide additional illumination on curves, turns, and hills and to highlight potential hazards. The primary benefit of this technology is that it increases the visible range of the forward roadway, particularly when navigating curves and turns.

What Do Drivers Think?

Studies show that few drivers are aware of adaptive headlamp technology (31%). Among those who are, 60% agree that it is a beneficial safety feature.

How Well Does It Work?

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that adaptive headlights are potentially relevant to 90% of crashes that occur on curves at night; however, the extent to which having adaptive headlights translates into actual crash reductions is still being actively studied. It has been found that vehicles equipped with adaptive headlights are involved in fewer crashes with other vehicles than vehicles that are not.

Adaptive headlights are most effective on moderate to high-speed roads in dark conditions, particularly when going around curves. Adaptive headlights also may be beneficial to persons other than the driver. They point more toward the road, reducing glare for other drivers, and may increase the visibility of pedestrians.

Who Benefits Most?

Adaptive headlights would be most beneficial to drivers who often drive at night. Since the technology is passive (automatic), it will be of some use to almost all drivers.

In What Situations Doesn’t It Work?

Though these systems can improve visibility, they do not warn the driver about potential obstacles. The lights do not make it safer to speed. This is especially important to keep in mind, as about a quarter of drivers who use adaptive headlights have reported that they are willing to drive faster with this technology turned on.

Mobility Significance

Adaptive headlights enhance the driver’s field of view in dark or other poor visibility conditions. They extend the hours during which a person can comfortably drive.

Not All Systems Are Alike

Future adaptive headlamp systems may adjust the beam pattern to prevent glare for the oncoming motorist, thereby allowing your vehicle to operate in high beam mode more frequently. Federal requirements do not presently permit such systems.

Different Names, Same Idea

Adaptive headlights can be found under a number of different names, including:
•    Advanced Forward Lighting System
•    Adaptive Headlamp

Additional terms that might be used to identify this technology include “cornering headlights,” “steerable headlights,” etc.

How Can I Learn More?

Full references to all studies quoted above can be found in the official AAA Foundation report, "Evaluating Technologies Relevant to the Enhancement of Driver Safety." The project's Fact Sheet provides more detail on the rating system itself, and the criteria used to assign solid and open stars, both for Overall and Scenario Specific ratings.