Lincoln MKX sheds light on safetyBy this time next year, drivers of the all-new Lincoln MKX crossover will find clearer visibility and an earlier look at pedestrians, oncoming vehicles or other obstacles.

Adaptive headlights that swivel left and right as the Lincoln MKX changes direction, will throw illumination into turns and increase the area of light on the road. Adaptive headlights have already appeared on certain models of Jaguar and Land Rover.

"The idea is to bring the light to the road," said Mahendra Dassanayake, staff technical specialist, "providing the driver with as much information about what's ahead as possible."

The crossover's lighting system features halogen projector-beam headlamps, mounted in a cage that pivots from left to right. Based on vehicle speed and steering wheel angle, an electric motor swivels the cage to the correct position.

The secret behind adaptive headlights is a system of motors, sensors and a computerized controller. Sensors relay information from the steering wheel and the wheels on the vehicle's speed and turning angle to the controller. The computer calculates where the headlights should be pointing and how fast they should turn. Based on the information, the controller can signal the motors located behind the headlights and have them point at the right spot.

"It swings the beam into the turning lane faster than the car can get there," Dassanayake said. "So it gives the driver the ability to see farther during a turn."

When cornering, the headlamps can illuminate a stretch of road up to 36 feet longer than conventional headlights.

Adaptive headlights are fast becoming a valuable safety option. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 42 percent of all crashes and 58 percent of fatal crashes in the United States occur at night or during other degraded visibility conditions. No wonder picked adaptive headlights for its list of the Top 10 High-Tech Safety Features.

Lincoln also provided a look at a possible advance in the lighting technology on the MKS concept sedan shown at the 2006 North American Auto Show in Detroit.

The concept's system uses two light sources working in tandem. A high-output halogen projection main beam is assisted by a secondary row of light emitting diodes (LEDs) that illuminate as needed. Driven by electronic sensors rather than mechanical motors used in current cornering systems, a row of instantaneous LEDs switch on sequentially as the vehicle rounds the bend.

"The way the optics in this system work together has not been seen before in the exterior lighting world," said Dassanayake. "Besides being a beautifully designed light, the system helps drivers to take corners and curves more safely -- and consume less energy while doing so."

The all-new Lincoln MKX recently began production and is scheduled to reach dealer showrooms this month.

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