Idea goes back to the 'Cyclops' headlight, one of many safety innovations of the 1948 Tucker.
Dear Car Talk: I remember reading about the Tucker automobile that tried to come out around 1950. It had a headlight in the center of the grille that turned with the direction of the steering wheel. It sounds like a good idea to me. Why hasn’t that idea been incorporated in other cars? I would appreciate your comments. — Harry
A: The 1948 Tucker had a bunch of innovative safety features, including a perimeter frame for crash protection, a reinforced roof, a padded dashboard and a shatterproof glass windshield — all stuff we take for granted today.
But most people remember the “Cyclops” headlight in the middle of the front grille that turned with the steering wheel.
It was a great idea, and you can now get it on an increasing number of new cars, often as optional equipment. They’re called adaptive headlights, and they usually work with small electric motors that can adjust the aim of the headlights about 15 degrees in either direction.
Like everything else these days, they use computer power to figure out how fast the car is going (so your headlights aren’t flying back and forth every time you parallel park), the angle of the steering wheel and how quickly the car is turning.
Based on those inputs, the electric motors aim the lights to try to keep their illumination on the road ahead of you while you’re making a turn, rather than lighting up the trees at the side of the road.
Some cars also use a separate “side”-pointing light for very-low-speed turning, like when you’re turning off the road into a driveway.
Got a question about cars?
Contact Ray through the website cartalk.com.