December 21st marks the winter solstice, the day when Britain has the fewest hours of daylight in the year. With most of the country seeing the sun for only around seven and a half hours, it means that the majority of the population will have to travel to work in darkness, and then find the sun has set by the time it’s time to go home again!
Besides being gloomy, cold and wet, the winter conditions make driving treacherous. Statistics gathered by Vauxhall show that over 80 per cent of all road traffic accidents occur in darkness and bad weather, making a compelling reason for the company’s engineers to develop the next generation of truly intelligent lighting systems. The aim is to improve visibility for the driver and achieve a significant increase in road safety and comfort.
Vauxhall is already a leader in the field of car lighting technology. In 2003 the company was the first mainstream car manufacturer to offer Adaptive Forward Lighting (AFL), a headlamp system which combines bi-xenon technology with a beam which moves as the car takes bends and then shifts upwards to increase visibility at motorway speeds. Additionally, another pair of extra bulbs illuminate to ‘look’ left and right at junctions. This year, the Astra became the first car to bring bi-xenon-based AFL, complete with its innovative curve lights, to the best-selling segment of Britain’s car market.
These have been proven to significantly improve visibility on roads ranging from country lanes and motorways to urban roads, but Vauxhall engineers can see even further – they’re looking into the future!
The next generation of headlamps, currently being developed and expected to be available in Vauxhall cars from 2007, will automatically adjust themselves to suit the road and visibility conditions. Rather than just being reactive to the driver’s inputs, the new AFL will link to satellite navigation systems to predict the road conditions ahead and adjust the lighting accordingly. When travelling quickly in a straight line, for instance on the motorway, a far-reaching beam of light is needed. The requirements in an urban area are different, and the broadest blanket of light is needed to bring hazards into the driver’s field of vision. On country roads, the road ahead and bends need to be illuminated accurately. With the sat-nav giving exact road information, the system will be able to adapt to bends or hilltops and avoid dazzling other road users. A bad weather light, using advanced sensors to sample the conditions, will help the driver see more in rain, snow or fog by using a wide-beam to pick out the edges of the carriageway and prevent glare from the road surface.
Drivers who have vision will find that the AFL system is an £850 option on most Signum and Vectra models, and costs £750 on the new Astra. For anyone not driving an AFL equipped Vauxhall, you could always try the old-wives’ method of seeing in the dark, and increase carrot consumption…Published 19 December 2004