What has happened to the headlights of the cars so that some cost up to 6,000 euros? We analyze how car lighting technology has evolved.
The headlights of a vehicle are responsible for lighting the way, for allowing us to see in the dark, and for being seen by other users. In addition, they are used to inform other drivers of our intentions, and even to warn of danger.
They are a technology, simple a priori, that has evolved over the years, going from simple oil, petroleum or carbide gas lanterns, to the complex laser and/or digital lighting systems that equip some of the leading cars on the market.
However, this important advance has also meant a considerable increase in the cost of the vehicle lighting system. So much so, that car headlights can cost up to 6,000 euros in some models, and this is something that we do not notice until we have to replace a headlight and they present us with the invoice.
The evolution of headlights: from lighting to a more safety system
The reason that justifies this increase in cost lies in the complexity of the headlights. With the advent of light bulbs, something that happened at the beginning of the 20th century, car headlights became a simple element, easy to maintain and cheap to replace.
The halogen bulb would represent a major leap in vehicle lighting technology when it became standardized in the 1970s, and with the advent of xenon headlights in the ’90s, cars illuminated better while reducing fuel consumption. .
The great leap occurred with the arrival of LED headlights already in the first decade of the 21st century and the impressive technological deployment that this element has brought to the automobile. The headlights are now complex elements, with impressive performance and controlled by the vehicle’s control unit (or even by its own control unit).
The LED headlamp has ushered in significant advances in safety and lighting. The adaptive lighting technology, which adjusts the headlights both in height and longitudinally, offers the driver a greater field of vision, while avoiding dazzling other road users.
This technology was improved with matrix systems, capable of darkening areas and other vehicles automatically while the vehicle keeps the high beams active. Meanwhile, laser headlights offer higher performance, capable of illuminating up to 600 meters away.
What has happened to the headlights of the cars so that some cost up to 6,000 euros?
Regarding the latest advances implemented, digital headlights and OLED technology represent where vehicle lighting systems are headed, going from simple lighting elements to warning and safety devices capable of transmitting messages to other drivers.
OLED makes it possible to create new customizable forms of lighting, especially in the rear lights of cars, as is the case with the Audi Q5; while the digital headlamps, which Mercedes-Benz has presented to us, can project luminous figures on the pavement to alert the driver and other users of the presence of danger, such as ice sheets or stopped traffic.
This revolution, which has turned headlights from simple bulb holders to complex lighting and warning devices with safety features, has raised their price significantly. Now, car headlights are digitized, connected and electronically controlled with a multitude of sensors and even cameras that optimize their performance.
In 2015, the cost of laser headlights on the BMW i8 was in the news, an optional equipment item that you could add to the hybrid sports car for 11,570 euros.
Today, the Digital Light headlights on the Mercedes S-Class are sold as part of an option package (which includes other items) for more than €10,000, while if you want OLED taillights on the Audi Q5 you’ll have to shell out almost €3,000, although you also get the Matrix LED headlights within this price.
And this is just to equip them on a new car. They are not exactly cheap if you have to replace them, for example, after suffering a head-on collision. In that case, it is best to have comprehensive insurance that covers the costs of the repair, since the bill will not be exactly cheap.