How have headlights changed?

Some fleet managers might be taking their cars' headlights for granted. Simply flick a switch and they turn on - that's all there is to it, right?

Wrong. Like all vehicle parts, headlights have undergone drastic redevelopment over the years, creating a safer, brighter and more efficient product. 

So, how exactly have these seemingly simple products evolved?

LEDs take over

This is a rather subtle trend on appearance, but under the surface it's a whole new ball game. You may have noticed what looks like strips of bulbs across the front of some newer cars. This is the stylistic advantage to these, with car manufacturers using them to add a unique touch to a common feature. 

While they're mostly used for the front-focused mandatory daytime running lights seen on vehicles in the US, manufacturer Hella promoted their benefits toward the rear of the vehicle as well in a press release from 2011. 

According to Hella, LEDs take less time to illuminate than standard bulbs, saving a silver of a second that could be just enough to prevent a rear-end collision if they're used as brake lights. 

Again, as with the front, rear LEDs offer more design freedom, with manufacturers able to use them in more aesthetically pleasing ways. 

"LED lighting is changing the way auto makers approach rear styling, helping to create additional brand awareness and offering a variety of new rear-end design options," said Vice President of Marketing Steffan Pietzonka.

"Compared with conventional bulb technology, more sophisticated LED systems allow stylists to create a variety of other shapes and features. Perspectively, more depth effects and three-dimensional forms are possible."

What about lasers?

You'd be forgiven for thinking that Audi is talking about weaponising its vehicles when it talks about adding lasers to them. Not only would this be a nightmare for fleet maintenance, it would also be illegal. 

What the German marque has managed to do is create laser headlights that pioneered on last year's Le Mans 24-hour race winning R18. Like all good technologies, now that it has been proven in the world's toughest road race it's ready for the street, with the company trialling it on a road-ready prototype. 

Swivel into place

There have been some less sensational - but no less effective - developments in the world of headlight technology. Some vehicles now feature adaptive headlights that adjust themselves to the road you're driving on, allowing for better visibility through curves on winding roads. 

These systems work by measuring speed and steering angle to ensure the part of the road you're facing is illuminated effectively.