In 1885 an enterprising German named Karl Benz rolled out what is accepted to be the first motor car. That's a well-known fact.
What may be less well known, when the realisation dawned that it was harder to drive in the dark, is how the modern car headlight evolved.
With a vehicle illumination market today that includes the ability to buy aftermarket LED headlights, the technology of seeing when driving has developed equally alongside the car itself.
With, we are told, autonomous cars being just around the corner, headlight technology today is both adaptive and intelligent and a far cry from the early days.
Here in the UK during the late Nineteenth Century, the Locomotive Act required self-propelled vehicles to be led by a pedestrian waving a red flag or carrying a lantern to warn of its approach, rather defeating the object of the vehicle itself to convey people without the need to walk at all.
Soon headlamps were fitted to vehicles instead. The illumination was provided by acetylene or oil, acetylene gas being preferred initially because the flame was resistant to wind and rain.
Electricity was certainly around by this time but the technology wasn't yet ready for any automotive purpose. Edison's electric filaments did not last long and there was also the issue of developing a dynamo that was small yet powerful enough to do the job.
Headlights As Standard
Electric lamps for cars finally saw the light of day in the first decade of the 20th Century and were fitted as standard equipment by several manufacturers.
Carrying this forward the American brand Cadillac introduced the electrical ignition and lighting system; essentially the forerunner of the system we still use today.
Nevertheless, it was not until 1940 that modern sealed beam technology appeared, the development of which having been stifled by government regulations that didn't keep pace with the march of science.
The Introduction Of Halogen Bulbs
It took until the 1960's for halogen bulbs to make their first appearance as both sealed units and single bulbs. This allowed for much longer life and vastly improved illumination of the road ahead. Although improved upon over time these are still the standard fitment in our cars today but that too is changing.
The light-emitting diode was first invented in 1962 but it took until 1993 for LED's to be introduced to rear reversing lights, headlight technology following later in our current Century.
Motorists in general should be grateful for the arrival of the LED as anyone who has struggled to replace a headlight bulb, usually in the dark and the rain, will tell you.
LED headlights last longer thanks to their simplicity and light up more. Because they require less electrical current to illuminate, the energy drawn from the battery is less than halogen and xenon lighting.
Aftermarket LED Headlights
Coupling this with the development of adaptive lighting means lighting our way on busy roads has never been better, enhancing the need to see and be seen.
Automotive LED Lighting technology has kept pace with many advanced developments making our cars safer, more efficient and more reliable but safety on the roads is still, for now anyway, dependent upon the person behind the wheel.
Electricity as a product is certainly in demand these days, lighting and powering our homes, our roads and increasingly our cars and essentially driving all the technology we take for granted. LED lighting is brighter and more efficient but, when the power goes down most of us still have a couple of candles in a drawer somewhere. I guess Karl Benz probably used them too.