Technology Lighting the Way in Road Safety

I was recently at a meeting of leaders of garage equipment sales and servicing companies and we enjoyed a rather illuminating (excuse the pun) presentation about European statistics regarding road safety associated with incorrectly aligned vehicle headlamps and the challenges posed by manufacturers of headlamp testing equipment.  The challenges are associated with the rapidly developing technology at the heart of modern lighting systems on vehicles because of course these days vehicles are rarely fitted with actual lamps.

As vehicle manufacturers continue to release new versions of vehicles the lighting systems have become increasingly complex and this means they are getting more difficult to test when presented to testing house such as a MOT testing stating in the UK.  These advances in technology serve two purposes; to provide a more comfortable and safer driving experience and to create a distinctive and stylish vehicle image, and this has resulted in the introduction of halogen, xenon, matrix LED and laser lighting systems and variable and adaptive lighting systems.

But first, those road safety statistics:

  • 90% of our driving time is during the day and only 10% of driving occurs at night.
  • However 35% of all accidents that occur on the roads occur during night-time driving, which is quite high considering only 10% of our driving is carried out at night.
  • When the statistics concerning fatal accidents are studied the situation gets worse with 45% of all fatal accidents happening at night.

This goes to show that night-time driving on average poses an increased risk of death or serious injury compared to daytime driving.  It is also known that 90% of driving decisions are linked to good vision, hence the continuing advancements in vehicle lighting technology.

The trouble is, there is no point in having the latest technology if the lighting systems are not set up correctly and are not providing the correct level, or correctly aimed illumination, for the current driving conditions.  This can be a problem for testing stations in the UK because approved headlight testers are still based on old technology and struggle to test modern headlights.  For many years now we have been supplying the Technique range of headlight testers which feature a high quality Fresnel lens which allows a reliable and accurate test of modern lighting systems.  However, we often find that we are competing with lower priced machines which are just fitted with a convex lens which, whilst still approved by the DVSA for testing, really do make hard work of getting a suitable image on the aiming screen and therefore struggle to provide a reliable test.  But even taking our advanced system into consideration, the future of headlight aim testing is going to be challenging and will require further developments in testing technology.  The examples below show what we are going to have to deal with:

  1. Variable Intelligent Lighting System - In narrow corners, entry gateways or crossings an additional lighting system is switched on and accompanies the low beam, radiating the side area up to an angle of 90 degrees from the forward facing direction.

Light1.jpg

2. Dynamic Bending Light - Low beam and high beam are turned via actuators based on the calculated bend geometry.

Light2.jpg

3. Adaptive Front Lighting System - Glaring parts of the high beam lighting distribution are automatically faded out in response to camera based receptive technology.

Light3.jpg

The challenges posed by these systems are:

  1. How to correctly centre the testing equipment right in front of the beam source.
  2. How an operative is to evaluate the results without their eyes being glared by high intensity LEDs and lasers as they are shown through the testing lens.
  3. To avoid such risk how is the operative to determine what type of lighting system is being presented?
  4. How to evaluate a poor quality beam when there is no clear cut-off point on some of these modern lighting systems.

Fortunately, as we are representatives for the Technique range from Trade Garage Equipment we can be sure that the manufacturers of our testing systems are keeping apace with the new technologies that are entering the market.  We have access to camera based headlight testers that solve the problems listed above and can provide printouts of visual displays that can illustrate to a vehicle owner the performance of their advanced lighting system.

Ian Gott

Managing Director

Statistics and images courtesy of Capelec.