skip to content

The Evolution of Headlights


Two thin rows of headlamps of Genesis GV80, or The New Grandeur's headlamps integrated into the grill - yes, headlamps are evolving.

Where the headlights are the eyes, so they say. They are there to keep your vision, and they remind us of our own eyes. So where the radiator grill is the nose and the bumper intake for the mouth of a car.

Cameras, radars, Ridars, and other sensors help headlamps these days. But it is the driver’s responsibility to keep monitoring everything until self-driving cars are invented. So for now, the headlamps of a car indeed work just like human eyes.

Just like in the movies about the Middle Ages, the first horseless carriages used carriage lamps, which proved unsuitable for travel at speed. The earliest lights used candles as the most common type of fuel. Their primary purposes – forward visibility and letting others know of your presence – were the same back then, but their performance was significantly low.

The first electric headlamps were introduced as lightbulbs develop. Sealed Beam Lamp that uses a headlamp as one filament bulb, and a Halogen Lamp that is filled a halogen, were followed by High-Intensity Discharge Lamp (HID) that produces light with an electric arc. Then light-emitting diodes (LEDs) have been undergoing very active development since the twenty-first century. The early LED lamps were only for luxury models for their high price, but now most automobiles got to use LED technology continues to evolve.

The Kia K7 Premier (left) and Mohave the Master (right) each shows unique character through their LED headlamps.

LED headlamps featured tremendous advantages with system power consumption slightly lower than other headlamps, longer lifespans, and more flexible design possibilities. As LED technology continues to evolve, the performance of LED headlamps was predicted to improve to approach, meet, and surpass that of other types of lamps. LED headlamps became one of the key factors that made car design profound and vivid.

Also, Daytime Running Lamp would glare more evident to the upcoming vehicle driver, which in turn would influence the upcoming vehicle driver’s eyesight, so that the inherent safety defect could be solved and safety benefit ensured. Along with headlights, Daytime Running Lamp, now required since 2015, began to highlight each unique character of an automaker.

The Hyundai Nexo and Palisade both use Composite Headlamp that separates headlamps.

Daytime Running Lamps and headlamps sometimes complete the unity of the models of a brand. Designers can do so by making radiator grille, headlamps, and Daytime Running Lamps look alike. Most of the Hyundai models use Composite Headlamp that separates headlamps, Daytime Running Lamps, and turn signals. This methodology is applied not only to the small SUV Kona but also to Santa Fe, Palisade, Venue, and eco-friendly FCEV Nexo.

The Kia Seltos at first had Sequence signal lamps, but had to be modified.

Headlamps are, of course, one of the most important compartments of a vehicle. Therefore they should comply with the law. This requirement sometimes becomes the reason they have to change the design of the headlamps that the original concept once had.

The turn signals of Kia Seltos had a unique way of blinking – they would flicker from the inside so that they seem to be flowing outward. However, they could not be compliant with all the regulations regarding the direction, duration, or dimension to be manufactured.

The LED of the Kia K5 matches well with the DRL which is designed after a heart rate monitor. The DRL can also change into a turn signal.

The headlamps are a depiction of the brand’s design identity. The third-generation K5 has a shorter trunk line and longer hood, with the signature “Tiger Nose” radiator grille connected seamlessly with the headlamps. This is because it was intended to make DRL, which designed after a heart rate monitor, and headlamps look bolder.

The advanced technologies gave a new radiator grille and headlamps to The New Grandeur.

The Hyundai New Grandeur also showcases headlamps and grille blended into a sensuous curve. The bumper design emphasizes volume, and the bonnet parting line was removed to ensure an uncluttered appearance. Hyundai has applied an integrated-type front grille and headlamp design, decorating the front with parametric jewel pattern to offer a luxurious feel.

The New Grandeur incorporates five hidden light lamps, but in daytime running lamp type, which look like part of the front grille when turned off. The light is emitted from a tiny hole on the chrome-coated lens. The New Grandeur has adopted a bold but clean and seamless front grill by making it in one-dimension. The designers and engineers collaborated tirelessly for this groundbreaking innovation.

The Genesis GV80 uses Quad Lamps that manifest the brand identity.

State-of-the-art technology and imagination consummated GV80, the very first SUV of Genesis. The Quad Lamps, paired by two, represent the design identity of Genesis. The Quad Lamps, which flank the Crest Grille, are made possible with sophisticated lighting technology. Through the turn signal to the tail lamps, the Quad Lamp graphic will become the most recognizable, unique signature of Genesis design, as the simplest of lines communicate a distinct identity.

While the Quad Lamp of GV80 on the upper headlamp is slimmer than any other lamps technically, the Intelligent Front-lighting System (IFS) below is another high-tech feature that GV80 boasts. The system can automatically activate or deactivate the low beam lights by the current conditions. This control aids driver visibility at night by automatically turning on/off one of the LED lamps through a camera attached.

The Imagine by Kia concept (top) and Hyundai’s Vision T concept (bottom) give a hint of the future headlamps.

As technologies evolve further, headlamps will have more options for shapes and features. One interesting way to guess the future headlamp is to take a look into the concept sketch. The headlamps revealed last year in the sketches of Hyundai and Kia were quite refreshing and inspiring.

Kia Motors has revealed its new all-electric concept car, ‘Imagine by Kia’, at the 2019 Geneva International Motor Show back in March. Intelligently reinterpreting Kia’s iconic ‘tiger-nose’ grille, Imagine by Kia shows a bold new illuminated ‘tiger mask’ that encircles the main LED headlamp units.
Meanwhile, Hyundai unveiled its innovative Vision T Plug-in Hybrid SUV Concept at 2019 AutoMobility LA back in November. The two derivative sub-themes of the dynamism fundamental design concept are Parametric Fantasy and Transcendent Connectivity. In these sub-themes, all parametric surfaces are connected from the body to either light or trim features. It features seamless connectivity free from distinct design boundaries when the car is not moving. At higher speeds, however, the headlamps appear, emerging from the grille. The Parametric Air Shutter is an original developmental feature that actively adjusts both aerodynamics and design appearance.

The autonomous vehicle M.Vision S of Hyundai Mobis has the Communication Lighting technology that can connect with people.

Another concept of the future headlamps is featured at CES 2020 through M.Vision S by Hyundai Mobis. This is an advanced system for a future vehicle, using powerful sensors and radars. M.VISION communicates with other vehicles and pedestrians through smart lamps. Communication lighting is a technology that displays letters and icons through special displays mounted on the front and rear of the vehicle, and DMD (digital micro-mirror device) headlamps use 400,000 microscopic mirrors that adjust the headlamp light to display specific signals on the road. What will they look like when the day comes?