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2011-02-21 "Lighting the Way"

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Adaptive Headlight technology – lighting the way

Ask any owner of a BMW touring motorcycle why they chose their particular machine and the responses will vary significantly, from engine configuration to wind and weather protection, ergonomics, comfort and special equipment. Owners are dedicated and knowledgeable, and ride their machines serious distances, usually with a pillion and often as part of their annual holidays.

The introduction of a new model series such as the K1600GT and K1600GTL into such an established market is always exciting, especially one that promises so many new innovations in the class. In a series of articles, we profile some of the innovative technical features – starting with adaptive headlight technology – that will help keep the K1600 Series machines ahead of their rivals.

Comparison of headlights.

Riding in the hours of darkness has its advantages, such as lower traffic levels and cooler temperatures (in warmer climates) but many riders choose not to do it because they just don't feel safe enough. This has a lot to do with the simple fact that basic motorcycle headlights are not good enough to illuminate the road ahead to match the speed the rider wants to travel at. Furthermore, a lack of adjustment often means that the headlight cannot compensate for changes to riding and load conditions, and ends up shining straight towards oncoming traffic rather than assisting the rider's vision.

Another key drawback for many motorcyclists is that, quite simply, they cannot see far enough into corners, as conventional fixed headlights cast their beam straight ahead only. As well as blinding other road users in bends, this also leaves the rider's area of the road in darkness, which can compromise safety.

Imagine if you could use new adaptive headlight technology to 'see' around corners and ensure that you have the best possible view of the road ahead? The concept is simple: as you enter a bend, the headlight beam turns to follow the direction of the road, so you always know what's in front. The BMW K1600GT and K1600GTL are the first motorcycle models in the world to offer an adaptive xenon headlight for even greater safety at night, and here's how it works…

BMW's car division has been using adaptive headlight technology in various models for some time, with a dynamic headlamp control system using sensors to measure speed, steering angle and yaw (degree of rotation around the vertical axis), with small electric motors turning the cars headlights and guiding the driver into bends. However, motorcycles are not 'steered' in the same way, as riders lean their machines when cornering, so a new system has been developed as a supplement to the standard xenon headlamp, not only increasing safety, but solving one of the age-old problems of riding at night.
Conventional headlight.

Adaptive headlight.
The K1600 models already feature ride height sensors in the front and rear axles that provide data for permanent headlamp levelling, regardless of riding and load conditions, but the optional adaptive headlight actually tilts the headlight according to your lean angle, allowing you to see around a corner as you turn, instead of having to ride into darkness.

It's a simple idea with a clever solution that features a servomotor which turns the standard static reflector mirror into a swivel mirror. When the lean angle of the motorcycle changes, the mirror turns on an axis to compensate for this, and the low beam light is balanced in relation to the actual angle of lean. These two movements are superimposed, resulting in significantly improved illumination being directed into the bend and a subsequent increase in active riding safety.

The calculation of the motorcycle's lean angle is made by means of a sensor box, as used in the S1000RR, which also distributes information used by the Dynamic Traction Control and ABS, via the Can bus system. The result is a significant safety benefit – especially when taking bends at night or whenever visibility is poor, quite simply because the road ahead is better illuminated and obstacles become visible sooner.
The look.

It's about the ride!
With the high-beam circular headlamps positioned to the right and left of the standard xenon lights with fibre optic rings, there's no doubt that the striking 'face' of the K1600GT and GTL will be immediately recognisable as it briefly fills the rear view mirrors of motorists, before disappearing off into the distance and lighting the way for others to follow.

To see some video footage of how the BMW Adaptive Headlight technology works, please visit:¬rack=1

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