Why MINI Replaced Adaptive Xenons with LED Cornering Lights

One of the many questions we asked MINI this week at the F56 launch was about the new LED lights. At $750, they’re an exceptional value considering their performance over the xenons. Yet the LED can’t swivel into corners like the Xenons can because of the design of the unit itself. So instead of making the lights more complicated, MINI solved the problem like a rally mechanic would: they added more lights.

Using what they call cornering lights, MINI has created a system that, aligned with the steering angle, turns on additional lights to illuminate corners with the same results as the previous adaptive swiveling system. We didn’t get a chance to test this new set-up at launch, but we were assured by MINI engineers that it’s as effective as the previous adaptive system.

  • fishbert

    Wish they’d have synched it up with the navigation system to anticipate turns instead of waiting for the steering wheel.

    • r_k_w

      The system shouldn’t second guess what the driver actually wants to do. Besides, you’re assuming a level of accuracy for both map and location that may not always be available.

      • fishbert

        I don’t think there’s any second-guessing involved… and it’s the sort of adaptive headlights that are coming.

        • neat but with issues

          It is second guessing what the driver wants because an algorithm is trying to predict where the driver is going. For example, a fork in the road. If I don’t have a route entered, how will it know which way I want to go? Is it going to predict I stay right while I go left? Then I’ll be driving into the dark. For reasons like that it should still be tied into the steering wheel.

          Also, you realize GPS accuracy is only guaranteed to 8 m (26 ft) at a 95% confidence level in the US. That could be +/- too. Many times GPS lags behind your actual position. I’d be very annoyed if I took a left turn, then after my left turn the algorithm instructs the headlights to illuminate the left side based on delayed data, blinding oncoming traffic.

          I shudder to think how awful that would be on a windy twisty mountain road with no street lights. If the GPS is having a bad day you’ll be curving left while it’s lighting right and vice versa. I prefer KISS when it comes to safety.

        • fishbert

          What I meant was, it’s not a second-guess if it happens before the “guess” (before the driver’s action). Predictive behavior, by definition, cannot be a second guess.

        • It’s not predictive based on what the engineers told me. It simply follows the steering input.

        • Should we assume it’s similar to the previous gen X5? There are tons of them in our area and the cornering lights are very noticeable. According to BMW, they activate “when the indicator is used or with a steering lock of over ten degrees – up to a speed of 35 km/h” http://www.bmw.com/com/en/newvehicles/x5/x5/2006/allfacts/ergonomics_corneringlights.html

        • Almost all BMWs have cornering lights – it’s just that the X5s are more obvious. Most of them use the inside light on the side turning. They used to be used as brights but with Xenons and LEDs they’re not needed.

          The other key thing here is that those are used only in low speed situations. MINI’s system is used at all speeds like the adaptive Xenon system.

        • There was a lot of anticipation of the F56 from a chassis/dynamic and technology sense. Although it would be nice to have every BMW 7-series-level saloon satire, it seems like they struck a nice balance of new tech with room to improve at the LCI. The underpinnings are there for this tech as BMW/MINI already predictively changes some dynamics of the car with Nav. This was first with the BMW 7 series and even the F56 has this according to the first press release, “In conjunction with the MINI navigation system, the automatic transmission is also able to take account of the route profile in controlling gear shifts. Based on navigation data, the appropriate drive position is selected to match the imminent situation on the road, e.g. directly prior to junctions or on corners. This prevents unnecessary upshifts between two bends in quick succession, for example.” http://www.motoringfile.com/2013/11/18/world-premier-the-new-mini/

  • lawrothegreat

    This explains some of the ambiguity in the literature about whether they are adaptive or not. I can’t wait to see them in action though!

  • Jazzman

    I’m sure the LEDs are great, but I don’t see how a set of ‘cornering’ lights will help me at 70mph on a dark highway. With the adaptive xenon lamps the road ahead is lit up, not the road beside me.

    • You’re right that at a distance, the cornering lamps will not do much. I’ve been in cars with corning lamps and they are helpful at low speeds. Hopefully with the F56 LCI, we’ll get adaptive LEDs in addition to corning lamps (and some actual fuel economy in the Cooper S 6spd). The adaptive headlights in my fiancé’s Audi S5 are very nice, especially on tight sweepers at speed. Here’s BMW’s take on cornering versus adaptive lights: http://www.bmw.com/com/en/insights/technology/technology_guide/articles/cornering_lights.html

  • Mysticeti

    If I’m understanding this correctly I like it. It removes the possibility of mechanical failure but keeps the same basic functionality.

    • Correct. It’s also lighter.

      • John McLauchlan

        By definition, adding more lights makes it “lighter” 😉

        Being a fan of adaptive Xenons, can’t wait to try the new LED with cornering.

  • oldsbear

    Now if you could put a heads-up thermal image on my windscreen, at a price I could afford…

  • wetwolf

    Questions about the LEDs. What is the expected life and the replacement cost once they do burn out? I assume the LED replacement unit will be dealer only, correct? thx

    • r_k_w

      If the headlight fixtures are engineered correctly, LEDs should last beyond the life of the car. The light housing must have properly designed heat management (ventilation and heat sinks) to keep the LED elements cool. Many people think LED’s don’t produce heat, but they do and excessive heat shortens their lifespan.

      LED street lights are typically expected to last 50K to 100K hours.

  • AndrewH

    Got to say, this is a little disappointing. I had cornering lights in my VW Polo GTI based on the same principle as the LED ones here but they were nowhere near as good as the adaptive headlights in the Mini. As others have said, they were only operative/effective at lower speeds and didn’t see round corners on dark country roads like the mini ones. Being a Mini system, I’m sure they will be better executed than the VW system but still…

    • It’s all about perspective. The Adaptive system on the MINI was about 50% as effective as those on BMWs.

  • EHans

    Kind of sad that when I got my MINI with Xenons this summer, it was the latest greatest and now LEDs and Lasers will make my lights look like boring old halogens.

    • Lasers are coming this spring with the BMW i8. It’ll be the first production vehicle with them.

      • Cars that look like sharks with frickin’ lasers on their heads!

        • EHans

  • Wolfgang Gullich

    You want to know what the real reason is? The elimination of moving parts that are inherently unreliable. I’m going through this right now with my ’11 X5d and a failure of one of the adaptive dynamic headlights. 1800 miles out of warranty and one failed. Was almost a $2400 part to replace but BMW stepped in with a goodwill repair funding 100% parts and labor.

    Although I’ve never had a problem with the xenons on the 3 MINIs I’ve owned (still own a nice R60), I can see this as being the impetus behind replacing the headlights with moving parts with stationary parts as they are much more reliable.