IIHS Developing Headlight Tests for 2016, Links "Steerable" Beams to Safety

The American Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is looking to add yet another test to the barrage of procedures all vehicles are subjected to before earning the coveted Top Safety Pick+ title. This time, it involves headlights and their capacity to give the maximum driver visibility at night and in rough weather.
1948 Tucker Torpedo 1 photo
We're not just talking about the ability to dim the high beams so as not to blind oncoming traffic. The IIHS has talked to car insurance companies and found "steerable headlights are associated with the largest reductions of crashes reported to insurers," according to David Zuby, the institute's chief research officer.

Data gathered by the Highway Loss Data Institute, which is the IIHS' research branch, found that cars from Mazda, Mercedes and Volvo that had adaptive headlights saw up to 10% fewer incidents.

Luxury automakers like BMW, Mercedes or Audi have been making headlines with their lighting systems for years. They include lasers to power the high beams and clever indicators that draw more attention by making a wave pattern. But the fact that the IIHS wants smart lights changes everything.

By 2016, these standalone tests will be ready, and a year after that, good results may be needed to achieve the highest rating of Top Safety Pick+. Many mainstream manufacturers like Subaru or Kia depend on these scores, so the development of lights that "steer" will be accelerated.

"We’ve talked to some automakers who are looking at lighting systems that they weren’t planning on doing for several years ... but they’re now looking at accelerating the availability of that technology," Zuby told Automotive News.

Lights that are equipped with motors connected to the steering system have been around since as early as the 1948 Tucker Torpedo (shown above).

Everything sounds peachy keen, hunky dory from our perspective. Make the headlights see behind your back for all we care. However, if the IIHS only requires these features to be available on cars that get the maximum score, we will have solved nothing. Luxury German automakers will continue to bully customers into paying extra and America's roads won't become much safer.
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About the author: Mihnea Radu
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Mihnea's favorite cars have already been built, the so-called modern classics from the '80s and '90s. He also loves local car culture from all over the world, so don't be surprised to see him getting excited about weird Japanese imports, low-rider VWs out of Germany, replicas from Russia or LS swaps down in Florida.
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