You might have visited a vehicle dealership lately and seen an “AFS” abbreviation written in one of their brochures. So, you might be wondering, what is AFS in a car?
An adaptive front-lighting system (AFS) is able to adjust the direction and angle of a vehicle’s headlights. This greatly improves the driver’s visibility when going around corners, as regular headlights only illuminate the area of the road that’s directly in front of the vehicle.
You might have also read the term “adaptive headlights” mentioned in automotive articles. What are adaptive headlights? Adaptive headlights are just another term for adaptive front lighting.
Several vehicle manufacturers use different terms for their adaptive lighting systems. For example, Porsche calls it their Porsche Dynamic Light System, while Genesis calls it their Genesis Adaptive Cornering System.
Some AFS-equipped vehicles have an added feature which can also detect oncoming vehicles and direct light in a way that doesn’t blind the oncoming drivers. This feature is called adaptive driving beam headlights, and it switches to a low beam when the sensors detect oncoming traffic. The US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration only issued a ruling that allowed the use of this technology in 2020.
How Does AFS Work?
Vehicles equipped with AFS have an electric motor that controls the headlights’ direction based on the angle of the steering wheel. Some AFS-equipped vehicles also have sensors and cameras that monitor the road ahead and detect the presence of oncoming vehicles. AFS can also use vehicle speed sensors to compute how far it needs to pivot the headlights, as it can extend the headlight’s reach if the vehicle is traveling at high speed.
Since the headlights can pivot up and down, AFS can also maintain headlight level when cargo is weighing down the vehicle’s rear or if the vehicle’s position changes when going over a hill or a slope.
When Was AFS Introduced?
Historically, the first use of adaptive front lighting was in the 1948 Tucker, which had a headlight in its center that could pivot left and right. The design’s appearance earned it the nickname “Cyclops.” Despite offering several innovative features, the company failed after only building 51 cars.
Modern AFS was only introduced in the early 2000s in luxury vehicles. From there, many car manufacturers have since adopted the technology and offered the system in cheaper vehicle models for an added fee.
Does AFS Make Vehicles Safer?
According to a report published by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), vehicles without adaptive headlights rarely got good ratings, while most vehicles equipped with adaptive headlights received good ratings. Additionally, AFS-equipped vehicles are associated with a 5.8% reduction in property damage frequency loss claims and a 1.1% reduction in collision claims.
However, the IIHS also noted that adaptive headlights also typically cost twice as much compared to a conventional halogen headlight. With the increased cost associated with adaptive headlights, the average cost of claims by owners increased by 4.7%.
Many high-end automobile manufacturers like BMW, Audi, and Volvo spearheaded the introduction of AFS. But now, many mainstream manufacturers are offering AFS for entry-level cars. Each year, the number of automobiles equipped with AFS grows. Given how entry-level vehicles continuously adopt technology from higher-end models, all future vehicles might end up having AFS.
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