Few bright spots in IIHS headlight test

2016 Toyota Prius V
Automotive safety technology has made fantastic leaps over the past few years, but there’s one crucial piece of equipment carmakers haven’t made much progress with. Headlights have gotten more elaborate, but they haven’t gotten better, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

The safety organization recently conducted its first-ever headlight test. The results were illuminating, but not in a good way, as most of the systems tested were found to be unsatisfactory. The IIHS tested 82 headlight systems across 31 2016 models from both mainstream and luxury brands. But just one car received the top “good” rating.

That was the 2016 Toyota Prius V, but only when equipped with optional LED lights, and a high-beam assist system that automatically shuts off brights when another car approaches. Those features are only available in an option package on the highest trim level, and without them the Prius V got the lowest rating, “poor.”

The difference has to do with reaction times. With LED headlights, testers said a Prius V driver could be traveling 70 mph and still be able to spot an obstacle and brake in time to avoid a crash. The car would have to be traveling 20 mph slower to do that with the base halogen system. And in the worst performer, the BMW 3 Series with base halogen lights, avoiding a crash is only possible at 35 mph or slower, the IIHS says.

This doesn’t mean a car needs a high-tech lighting system to do well in these tests. The Honda Accord sedan actually scored higher with the more basic available system, getting an “acceptable” with halogen lights, but only a “marginal” with LEDs and high-beam assist. Cadillac ATS, Kia Optima, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class test cars all had the ability to swivel their headlights in corners, but that didn’t help their scores at all.

All cars were tested by the IIHS on its own track (after dark, of course) on both straightaways and curves, with both high beams and low beams. Glare from low beams was also measured, and the results were compared to a theoretical ideal lighting system. Low-beam results were weighed more heavily because they’re used more, and so were scores for straight sections of road, because that’s where the majority of crashes take place.

Cars

Volvo invented the three-point seatbelt, and it might be the company that kills it

Volvo didn't invent the seatbelt, but the firm patented the three-point configuration found in every new car in 2019. Autonomous technology will force automakers to rethink how they keep motorists pinned to their seats, and Volvo is leading…
Cars

Study finds motorists overestimate Autopilot’s capabilities; Tesla disagrees

Research conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) finds many motorists are confused about the semi-autonomous driving aids found in cars. They often think the systems are more capable than they truly are.
Product Review

With more power and more tech, the 2019 GTI is still the VW you should buy

Year in and year out, the Volkswagen Golf GTI sits atop the list of the best cars you can buy. The 2019 GTI is no different, and like its predecessors is a blast to drive. An additional 8 hp and new tech even in the base S model makes it a…
Cars

Flat-six makes a brief but triumphant return in Porsche’s hot-rodded 718 duo

Porsche unveiled a pair of 718-based sports cars that brazenly buck the industry's downsizing trend. The 718 Cayman GT4 and the 718 Spyder ditch the turbocharged flat-four in favor of a naturally aspirated, 4.0-liter flat-six rated at 414…
Cars

Acura engineers love speed so much that they set up a Pikes Peak race team

Acura will bring four cars to the 2019 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, all driven and crewed by the Honda luxury brand's own engineers. A fifth Acura entered by RealTime Racing will also compete.
Cars

Nissan and Renault are the latest automakers to ally themselves with Waymo

Waymo is partnering with the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance to research uses for self-driving cars in France and Japan. This is the first time Waymo has considered deploying self-driving cars outside the United States.
Cars

Tire review: BFGoodrich Advantage T/A Sport LT

BFG melds performance heritage with everyday practicality to deliver a more sophisticated all-season radial with the Advantage T/A Sport LT.
Product Review

The 2020 Ford Explorer shows why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover

The 2020 Ford Explorer emerges from a redesign on a new rear-wheel drive platform, boasting hybrid and sporty ST models for the first time. Ford pulled out all the stops to keep the Explorer on top.
Cars

Nissan’s high-tech ice cream truck removes the fumes from your order

Nissan has given the traditional ice cream truck a modern makeover to create a cleaner, greener, high-tech alternative that also gives aging electric-vehicle batteries a new life.
Cars

Genesis, Kia, and Hyundai top 2019 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study

Genesis, Kia, and Hyundai took the top three spots in the 2019 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, while Jaguar ranked lowest. J.D. Power surveys owners for problems with new vehicles.
Mobile

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Tesla Special Edition turns out to be a beautiful dream

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 may not be far away now, but there are still surprises in store. One that will not happen is a team-up with Tesla. A post on Weibo referenced what turns out to be an imaginative high-concept render by a YouTuber.
Cars

What is Apple CarPlay? Here's all you need to know about iOS in your dashboard

CarPlay is one of two major infotainment systems currently vying for your car's dash. Here's everything you need to know about the system, including its feature set and host of third-party apps.
Cars

How the furious pace of innovation has sculpted the world’s fastest motorcycles

The technology that powers modern MotoGP race bikes isn't just inside of them -- it's everywhere. Literally every single part of the bike, from the brake pad coating to the shape of the gas tank, is painstakingly designed to make the rider…
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Illuminated keyboards and a retro gaming console

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!