IIHS Headlamp Evaluation Proves Most are Junk

Discussion in 'In the News' started by xcel, Jul 13, 2016.

  1. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    [​IMG] DOT limitations may have something to do with it. Not everything however.

    Wayne Gerdes – CleanMPG – July 12, 2016

    Headlights for most small SUVs are poor according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

    Something so important but with little measure other than our own anecdotal commentary now has targets in place.

    A straight up Copy and Paste as it is that good.

    According to IIHS headlamp testing, not a single small SUV out of 21 tested earns a good rating in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's headlight evaluations, and only four are available with acceptable-rated headlights.

    Among the 21 vehicles, there are 47 different headlight combinations available. More than two-thirds of them are rated poor, making this group of vehicles even more deficient when it comes to lighting than the midsize cars that were the first to be rated earlier this year.

    Headlight performance in today's vehicles varies widely. DOT standards are based on laboratory tests, which don't accurately gauge performance in real-world driving. The issue merits attention because about half of traffic deaths occur either in the dark or around dawn or dusk.

    Just like midsize cars, the IIHS evaluations of small SUVs showed that a vehicle's price tag doesn't correspond to the quality of headlights. More modern lighting types, including high-intensity discharge (HID) and LED lamps, and curve-adaptive systems, which swivel in the direction of steering, also are no guarantee of good performance.

    Matthew Brumbelow, IIHS Senior Research Engineer:
    For 2017, vehicles will need good or acceptable headlights in order to qualify for the Institute's highest award, TOP SAFETY PICK+.

    Just watch what happens to headlamp quality and improvements with that recognition in place. -– Ed.

    While studies have pointed to advantages for advanced lighting systems, the IIHS rating system doesn't favor one type of technology over the other. Instead, it measures the amount of usable light provided by low beams and high beams as vehicles travel on straightaways and curves.

    IIHS engineers evaluate headlights on the Vehicle Research Center's track after dark. A special device is used to measure how far the light is projected as the vehicle is driven on five approaches: traveling straight, a sharp left curve, a sharp right curve, a gradual left curve and a gradual right curve.

    Glare from low beams for oncoming drivers is also measured in each scenario. A vehicle with excessive glare on any of the approaches can't earn a rating higher than marginal.

    The only type of technology given an explicit nod in the ratings is high-beam assist, which automatically switches between high and low beams based on the presence of other vehicles. Vehicles can earn extra credit for this feature because of its potential to increase low rates of high-beam use.

    The best-performing headlights in the small SUV group belong to a new model, the Mazda CX-3, and are available on its Grand Touring trim. They are curve-adaptive LED lights with optional high beam assist. The low beams perform well on both right curves and fairly well on the straightaway and sharp left curve; however, they provide inadequate light on the gradual left curve. The high beams perform well on most approaches.

    The other vehicles available with acceptable headlights are the Ford Escape, the Honda CR-V and the Hyundai Tucson. None of the three are curve-adaptive, and only the Escape has high-beam assist. Still, all of them provide fair or good illumination in most scenarios.

    The worst headlights among the small SUVs belong to the Honda HR-V.

    The illumination provided by the HR-V's halogen low beams and high beams is inadequate on all four curves and on the straightaway.

    The HR-V is one of 12 small SUVs that can't be purchased with anything other than poor-rated headlights.

    For these vehicles available with higher-rated headlights, consumers need to make sure they're getting the right ones. For example, the Tucson's acceptable headlight combination is available on the SUV's Limited version, but the headlights on other trim levels of the Tucson earn a poor rating. Even the Limited, when equipped with curve-adaptive headlights, earns a poor rating because of excessive glare.

    Seventeen of the rated SUV headlight combinations have unacceptable glare. They include all types of lights — halogen, HID and LED — and none of the headlight types is more likely than the others to have excessive glare. Three of the 17 fell short of an acceptable rating on the basis of glare alone.

    IIHS Compact CUV Headlamp Evaluation


    Brumbelow added:
    Within the release, the IIHS plans to conduct headlight tests on pickups next.
    Mendel Leisk, Jay and BillLin like this.
  2. Jay

    Jay Well-Known Member

    Good find, Wayne. I wonder how much of the blame for poor headlight performance can be attributed to DOT foot dragging. It seems that the latest headlight technology that Europeans enjoy isn't allowed here by the DOT.
    08EscapeHybrid, xcel and BillLin like this.
  3. PaleMelanesian

    PaleMelanesian Beat the System Staff Member

    I'm glad they're including oncoming glare in the rating. It's really bad out there now.

    I can confirm that the HR-V has poor headlights, based on its cousin the Fit. They're dim compared to most. There is too much angle difference between high and low beams so if you adjust the low beams to be useful, the high beams are lighting up the treetops.
    xcel and BillLin like this.
  4. NeilBlanchard

    NeilBlanchard Well-Known Member

    I wonder how the BMW i3 lights would stack up?

    How many of the tested vehicles had LED headlights? If the e-Golf units are anything to go by, LED headlights are fabulous. They have a tilting mechanism that seems to change for slopes, and the low beams are so good, that it almost doesn't need high beams.
    BillLin and xcel like this.
  5. ALS

    ALS Super Moderator Staff Member

    I wonder how much fuel economy mandates and the necessity to improve aerodynamics for better fuel economy is effecting headlight design and performance.
    xcel and BillLin like this.
  6. BillLin

    BillLin PV solar, geothermal HVAC, hybrids and electrics

    The LED headlights on the '13 Leaf were pretty good. Non-movable. The standard halogen low beams (old rectangular sealed ones or the projection ones) have all been okay with me. The best high beams I've had are on the current Prius I drive daily (2012 pip). I would love to try out the laser headlight arrays in the future. You can't truly blind someone adequately without lasers. ;)

    I suspect the projector halogens may have some odd glare effects on oncoming vehicles.

    Worst glare comes from HID lights that are improperly aimed, or from those people who think high beams on all the time in daytime is okay because you cannot blind anyone in the daytime. Right. Oh, thought of one more. Vehicles that tow, and do not have load leveling shocks are almost always glaring into oncoming traffic all the time.
    xcel likes this.
  7. PaleMelanesian

    PaleMelanesian Beat the System Staff Member

    Around here it's trucks that ride 12" higher than stock, with no modifications to the lights. Not only blinding, but in a collision their bumper is right in my face. :mad: The biggest dealer around here pre-modifies brand new trucks and sells them that way, Dodge and GM.

    Oh, and they all have one or more giant LED light bar as well.
    NeilBlanchard, xcel and BillLin like this.
  8. BillLin

    BillLin PV solar, geothermal HVAC, hybrids and electrics

    Sigh... Nice looking trucks for monster truck car crushing, but keep them off the road, please! I'm with you on that.
    xcel likes this.
  9. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    Hi All:

    The best lights I have ever used in practice are probably not DOT legal today but were back in 2009. The 2009 BWM 335d's HIDs high beams lit up the Instate like an airport runway during daylight. Absolutely the most impressive thing I have ever seen behind the wheel. Wish everyone had this same output. Nowadays, all of the fancy HIDs and LEDs are forced to put out light so low that you are overdrive them above 50 mph. :( DOT regs for sure as I see it on most vehicles nowadays. Great lights with super tight cutoff but they are all neutered.

    Jay and BillLin like this.
  10. NeilBlanchard

    NeilBlanchard Well-Known Member

    I think it is taller vehicles that are the main problem. They tend to move the headlights up proportionally, and that makes the engineering more difficult - the driver sits higher, and looks out over a higher hood, but the low beams still have to be aimed low enough to not blind oncoming drivers.
    BillLin likes this.
  11. EdwinTheMagnificent

    EdwinTheMagnificent Legend In His Mind

    Who aims these headlights ? The factory ? The dealer ? Owners ? How many folks here have ever adjusted headlights on a car they own ? (raises hand).
    BillLin likes this.
  12. seftonm

    seftonm Veteran Staff Member

    I see a lot of headlights that put a ton of light onto the road, but are aimed too low to be useful for highway speeds. I imagine DOT regulations and the sharp cutoffs on modern LEDs and HIDs have something to do with that. I have raised the headlights on my last two cars to improve their range, but not to the point where I get flashed by oncoming drivers. To me, this means that the headlights were pointed lower than they could have been.
    xcel and BillLin like this.
  13. Die2self

    Die2self Saving more by using less!

    I have not seen a state inspection here in the states that look at if the lights are aimed correctly. They only see if they work. In New Zealand where I spent a few years, it was a mandatory test that the lights work AND are aimed correctly. If not, you have to go fix and come back. Seems like a no brainier to me.
    TheStepChild, xcel and BillLin like this.
  14. BillLin

    BillLin PV solar, geothermal HVAC, hybrids and electrics

    Years ago, annual safety/emissions inspections in Taxachusetts checked the headlight alignment. I used to watch the inspections back then. They had marks on the wall and checked the lights against them. That's not necessarily proper, I suppose. I had my own gadget with level that would attach to the rectangular sealed beams, probably from JCWhitney. :)

    Lately, the car is taken into a garage bay somewhere and the customer waits in the waiting room. I admit have have not checked any of my current vehicles.
    xcel likes this.
  15. RedylC94

    RedylC94 Well-Known Member

    My car failed inspection in Virginia due to allegedly faulty headlight aim---although it had passed many previous times in New Jersey, North Carolina, and Virginia, and nothing had happened to change the aim.

    These tests that purport to evaluate headlight design, but actually are more about evaluating factory aim settings, based on a sample size of one for each model, are misleading.
    BillLin and xcel like this.
  16. brick

    brick Answers to "that guy."

    I've been content with the old-tech halogen reflectors in this and past cars because I can always upgrade bulbs, and because the "fuzzy" edge of the beam provides a little more coverage even if I don't get full brightness as far down the road as I'd like. I really don't like the sharp cutoff on the few HID-equipped vehicles I've driven. It always feels like I'm driving off the edge of a cliff.

    Oh, have I complained about HID conversions latley? I freaking hate that. Putting a poorly-placed HID capsule into that "fuzzy" halogen reflector housing results in horrendous glare to oncoming traffic. Plus 90% of the time they use an absurdly blue-shifted light source. I'd like to see those cars driven off of actual cliffs.
  17. joshdurston

    joshdurston Rogue Canadian

    As a headlight geek, this news is so welcome. I did think my Tiguan with the xenon adaptive headlights was pretty good though.

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