— Automakers are hell-bent on installing every high-tech “safety” and convenience product on new vehicles.
For consumers, knowing which in-vehicle technological wonders work and which don't can be confusing at best.
Much of the problem stems from products that show promise in theory or on a test track but not enough real-world testing to acquire definitive statistics.
Leading the charge in real-world research is the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit safety agency funded by insurance companies.
The Institute recently looked at results for insurance claims related to vehicles with adaptive headlights (BMW adaptive headlight pictured above.)
Adaptive headlights respond to steering input to help a driver see around a curve in the dark.
The headlights' horizontal aim is adjusted based on the speed of the vehicle, direction of the steering wheel and other factors so that the lights are directed where the vehicle is heading.
In short, they turn when your steering wheel turns.
Adaptive headlights offered by Acura, Mazda, Mercedes and Volvo were part of the research.
The Institute found property damage claims fell as much as 10 percent with adaptive headlights.
Researchers had expected the biggest effects from adaptive headlights would be on single-vehicle crashes reflected in collision coverage. Collision claim frequency did fall, but not by much.
However, injury claims of all types, both for injuries to occupants of the insured vehicles and to other road users, fell substantially for all but one make.
All four adaptive headlight systems showed benefits for most insurance coverages, and many of these estimated reductions are statistically significant.
The Institute said adaptive lights appear to help in more situations than expected, but researchers aren’t yet sure why.
One problem not addressed by the study is the cost for a replacement headlight. Drivers have reported losing their headlights to such things as hitting a pot hole, then face a cost of $1500 to replace the light.