Why I love gadgety headlamps, by Tim Pollard

Published: 04 December 2008

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I’ve developed a thing about gadgety headlamps recently. I’ve blogged before on mynew rural existence and how I’ve seen the light: bi-xenons, twisting beams, multi-beam lights like Mercedes’ that assault the dark depending on the road circumstances. I love them all. But I’ve just tried a new system that dips the headlamps automatically – and it got me thinking.

The new Adaptive Forward Lighting system on the Vauxhall Insignia does many clever things that I like: it scatters the beam depending on road speed and weather conditions, so you get a good, long-range light on motorways, a shorter, less dazzling spread in rain and – old hat this now – it peers around corners for you. It does all these things very effectively. But it also controls main beam for you. And that’s plain odd.

I was driving home at seven the other evening and I was quite spooked by the invisible hand operating the stalk for me. Drive alone in the dark and the AFL lamps do their thing brilliantly – it’s like a millennium eve light show, with darkness banished as the beams dance around the road illuminating the road ahead and the verge with uncanny intelligence. They’re among the best headlamps I’ve ever used. But just as your hand hovers near the stalk to dip when another vehicle approaches, AFL does it for you.

I tried hard to flummox the system, I really did, but even driving into a hamlet with street lighting didn’t fool it. Vauxhall’s clever lights easily distinguish between headlamps and streetlamps. After a weekend’s use, I begrudgingly got used to the auto-dip function, but it left me bemused. I deplore the endless gadget creep that’s slowly taking away much of the driver’s responsibility. And yet this system really does work.

Would I pay £850 for the AFL system? I could do without auto-dip, to be honest, but the rest of the package was well worth the dosh. And as it’s getting dark in the December mid-afternoon gloom as I write, we could all do with lightening up.





By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet