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Thread: HID/night vision/high tech safety devices: good or bad?

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    HID/night vision/high tech safety devices: good or bad?

    HID/night vision/high tech safety devices: good or bad?
    By Eric Peters
    for immediate release

    Improving visibility -- especially night-time visibility -- ought to make any car safer to drive. Automakers have therefore developed ever-more-potent illumination technologies such as High Intensity Discharge (HID) lighting systems -- even infra-red night vision -- to give drivers a better view of the road ahead.

    HID lights entered the marketplace on high-end luxury and performance cars in the mid-1990s but are increasingly available on modestly-priced vehicles. Unlike conventional sealed beam headlights, which have a filament through which electrical current passes to create the light, HID lights contain a capsule filled with Xenon gas, through which electric current is arced. This gives off an intense, blue-tinted light that provides superior straight ahead as well as peripheral illumination than standard sealed beam (or halogen) headlights.

    HID lights are especially worthwhile if you live in a rural area or have poor night-time vision. They also consume less electricity than standard headlights -- reducing the load on your car's electrical system (including the alternator).

    The only downside associated with HID lights -- other than their higher initial and replacement cost -- is that oncoming traffic may be bothered by the glare produced by these high-powered lights. (NHTSA has had a small number of complaints about HID-associated glare.)

    However, this is not normally a problem -- if the lights are aimed/adjusted properly. (This should be checked and adjusted as necessary at least once per year ; in states that have annual vehicle safety inspections, this check is done as a matter of course. However, if you live in a state that does not have annual safety inspections, you should ask your dealer/service shop to check the aim of your headlights whenever the car is in for routine service.) Many automakers who equip their vehicles with HID lights also include "auto off" high beams -- which automatically cancel the high beams when oncoming traffic is sensed, then revert back to high once the oncoming car has passed.

    Infra-red night vision is more controversial -- and at present offered on only a few high-priced luxury makes and models (Mercedes-Benz and BMW cars, as well as a few late-model Cadillacs). It uses the same heat-sensing technology developed by the military to make people (and animals) more visible at night. In automotive applications, there is a small "box" in the forward viewing area of the driver's line of sight; the infra-red display highlights pedestrians in the road, or animals and children, etc.

    As with HID lights, the theory is that improved visibility will result in a safer vehicle -- and fewer accidents. However, unlike HID lighting systems -- which illuminate the driver's entire field of forward and peripheral vision -- infra-red systems require the driver to shift his focus to a much smaller infra-red "box" display area, effectively taking his eyes off the "big picture" of the road ahead and dividing his attention. West Virginia University Professor of Opthalmology Marc Green thinks infra-red night vision in cars is a "terrible idea" for just this reason.

    Botom line: If you buy a car with this feature, be careful not to let your attention wander -- or allow your field of vision to narrow down to just the relatively small night-vision display area.

    As far as aftermarket (non-factory installed) HID lights: It's possible to retrofit some (but not all) older cars with HID lights -- but don't be fooled by cheap "drop-in" replacement bulbs. These may produce a similar blue-white glow, but they don't produce the same type or intensity of illumination that true HID lights do. Factory-installed HID lights have HID-specific headlight assemblies -- including reflectors and lenses -- as well as different electrical requirements. If you are interested in retrofitting a true HID lighting system to your vehicle, ask your dealer or a shop that deals with automotive illumination systems.

    END


  2. #2
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    Re: HID/night vision/high tech safety devices: good or bad?

    I REALLY don't care for the HID beams at all. The blue light is such a contrast to regular headlights that you tend to fixate on them. The idea of an IR system on a car is ridiculous (retired military here). Unless you have something like a Head's Up Display system such as that used on fighter jets, you're just adding one more thing to distract the driver. Can you tell I'm big on driver distraction? <g> I had really considered getting a navigation system on my next car, but decided that it wasn't worth the price or the distraction.

    duck

  3. #3
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: HID/night vision/high tech safety devices: good or bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by ducky1776
    I REALLY don't care for the HID beams at all. The blue light is such a contrast to regular headlights that you tend to fixate on them. The idea of an IR system on a car is ridiculous (retired military here). Unless you have something like a Head's Up Display system such as that used on fighter jets, you're just adding one more thing to distract the driver. Can you tell I'm big on driver distraction? <g> I had really considered getting a navigation system on my next car, but decided that it wasn't worth the price or the distraction.

    duck
    We're of like minds!

    The "gadgets" they're putting on cars today are, indeed, potentially very distracting. I pass.

    FYI - GM offers a HUD on several models; has for a number of years...!

  4. #4

    Re: HID/night vision/high tech safety devices: good or bad?

    I use Silver Stars in lieu of OEM halogen bulbs. They only last 1 year under normal use but with those same low beams acting as DRLs I have to change them more often. Aftermarket HIDs? It's the best way to have the CHP snuggling up to your rear bumper and lighting those twin cherries faster than they can flick on.

    I know plenty of people who have been pulled over and ticketed for nothing more than having aftermarket HIDs under the guise of curbing street racing.

  5. #5
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: HID/night vision/high tech safety devices: good or bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by alphasubzero949
    I use Silver Stars in lieu of OEM halogen bulbs. They only last 1 year under normal use but with those same low beams acting as DRLs I have to change them more often. Aftermarket HIDs? It's the best way to have the CHP snuggling up to your rear bumper and lighting those twin cherries faster than they can flick on.

    I know plenty of people who have been pulled over and ticketed for nothing more than having aftermarket HIDs under the guise of curbing street racing.
    Yeah, I've heard/seen the same kind of thing.

    When I ride in congested areas, I keep the brights on - better to be slightly annoying to some cages than get run over by one!

  6. #6
    jillsuncle
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    Re: HID/night vision/high tech safety devices: good or bad?

    Don't drink, put the glass pipe down. Hands on the wheel eyes on the road, and say a prayer. ;D

  7. #7
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: HID/night vision/high tech safety devices: good or bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by jillsuncle
    Don't drink, put the glass pipe down. Hands on the wheel eyes on the road, and say a prayer. ;D
    And no damn cell phones!

  8. #8
    D_E_Davis
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    Re: HID/night vision/high tech safety devices: good or bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by alphasubzero949
    I use Silver Stars in lieu of OEM halogen bulbs. They only last 1 year under normal use but with those same low beams acting as DRLs I have to change them more often.
    One year? That arouses my suspicions that perhaps something isn't right with your car's electrical system. My 96 model, with the low-beam DRLs, is now 10.5 years since delivery and 86K miles, and still has all the original bulbs shining.


  9. #9
    jillsuncle
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    Re: HID/night vision/high tech safety devices: good or bad?

    Dern - I forgot about the cell phones. You can't stop Eric Peters. You can only hope to contain him. Hooray Beer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :

    V

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