Xenon Headlights Can Draw The Sting From Night Time Driving Dangers By Increasing Safety And Improving Visibility For Car Drivers



The evenings drawing in and the long dark nights, and often wet conditions, make driving particularly hazardous. Statistics show that while only 25 per cent of journeys take place at night more than 50 per cent of all fatal accidents happen during the hours of darkness. Furthermore it is recognised that a person aged 60 requires up to 10 times more light than a 20 year old. Car lighting therefore is a hugely important contributor to road safety and driving comfort.

Xenon lighting could provide the key to increasing safety and improving the lighting visibility for drivers and reassuringly experts predict that by the end of 2008 nearly four out of every ten cars in Europe will be equipped with xenon lights.

Xenon lights produce on average at least 2.5 times more light than a halogen bulb and only consume around two thirds of the power. Therefore a car driver can see ahead much more clearly and the car has more power for other functions. In addition, the clear blue-white light of xenon is far more like daylight than the conventional yellowish lamps and is easier on the eye with drivers able to concentrate better and not tire as quickly. A further benefit noticed by drivers is that xenon headlamps distribute more light on the road and improve illumination on the verge.

Nearly all new developments in car front-lighting technology have xenon at their heart. A key reason is that halogen lamps have a filament that results in a limited light output and lifespan. As specialists say, xenon lamps on average last more than double the lifetime of the most durable halogen bulb. Xenon creates its light from an electrical discharge between two electrodes in a micro-environment of xenon gas that is hermetically sealed in a tiny quartz capsule. A sophisticated electronic control module is required to maintain the stability of this arc of light.

The introduction of the bi-xenon headlamp in 1999, which for the first time produced dipped and main beam light from a single xenon bulb was one of the key initial milestones. This was followed in 2003 by the swivelling bi-xenon system and the approval for new vehicles with dynamic bend lighting to be used on the road. This innovation allows bi-xenon headlamps to follow the car driver’s steering movements and to swivel to the side as soon as he steers into a bend. Thanks to the new headlamp technology, the area illuminated by the dipped beam when entering a bend is almost doubled.

The first fully automatic lighting system (Adaptive Frontlighting System- AFS), which is expected to be introduced in 2006 / 2007 can create up to five different beam patterns for town, country, motorway, high beam and bad weather. Intelligent control units using data from different sensors around the vehicle will be used to switch these different patterns automatically.

The next step to increase safety is the world’s first active infra-red lighting system. This new technology allows for permanent driving with ‘invisible’ high beam lights without ever blinding oncoming traffic. Dangerous situations are identified and placed on the on-board display. Therefore a driver can drive with low beam but using the active infra-red module technology can ‘see’ just as well as with high beam, picking out life forms as well as static objects which could pose potential danger or accident risk at a distance of over 150 metres.

With xenon performing exceptionally well in improving the visibility and safety for car drivers it noticeably reduces the risk of accidents during night driving. Experts agree that vehicles using new advanced headlamp technologies are also providing actively high driving comfort. Therefore it is predicted that vehicles with xenon lights will attract higher second hand prices than those without. This provides another reason for buyers to choose the xenon option.

10 November 2005 Staff

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