Adaptive headlights that aim into corners are becoming more and more common in automobiles, where simply swiveling the lights left and right has the desired effect. But on a leaning vehicle like a motorcycle, the aim of the lights needs to change with the bank angle of the vehicle. Aiming a motorcycle’s headlight to the left in a left-hand turn would light up a nice patch of road right in front of the front wheel, instead of where it would normally aim, which is off into the trees on the outside of the corner – neither result is optimal.
BMW is tackling the problem with a new adaptive headlight system that is optional on the 2021 GS and R1250RT models. Different from the systems BMW used previously on the K1600GT and F900R, the new version promises to be an improvement over those older configurations.
The K1600GT model utilized moveable reflectors to achieve the desired headlight aim into corners. The F900R used an array of LEDs, with specific ones aimed into the corner that only lit up when cornering, similar in concept to the cornering light setup on the Kawasaki Versys.
The latest BMW offering uses LEDs mounted on a swiveling mechanism that is actuated by servos. By swiveling the LEDs, the system can change the aim of the headlights to match the lean angle of the bike, keeping them pointed into the corner, instead of off to the outside, as the motorcycle leans. The system reacts to the bank angle of the bike, as opposed to automobile systems that read the steering angle of the vehicle. The LEDs that are contained in the swiveling mechanism are the standard low beams, not a separate array.
The LEDs can also be pointed up and down, allowing the headlight beam to be adjusted automatically in response to the bike pitching forward or back from braking, acceleration, or to compensate for loads.
As is often the case, the optional adaptive headlights require packaging with other extras. The technology used is fairly simple, and with IMUs (Inertial Measurement Units) present on more and more motorcycles, this type of system could become commonplace on touring and adventure bikes soon.