Headlights - major safety issue

A few months ago, I posted about the very poor quality of the Model S headlights when making turns at night. I never heard back from Tesla. Yesterday, I found this post on the teslamotorsclub forum:

"The headlighting of the "S" is ok but an area of shortcoming, I feel, is lack of peripheral lighting during moderate speed cornering. By peripheral lighting I mean, lighting the area of the turn 1-2 seconds ahead of you. This lack of lighting is evident on city street driving, which may risk hitting the inside curb, but more problematic at open road speeds and possible quick steering corrections needed to prevent running out of the driving lane early or late in the turn. Both cases may leave most drivers feeling wary of the next time they want to enjoy moderate speed driving of this fine car at night. I come from many years of road racing and don't compete anymore, but still enjoy moderate driving speeds...."

I would really like to push this issue because I increasingly feel vulnerable when driving at night. Anyone from Tesla available for a chat?

Mike Corso
NO4N OIL (in NY)

I have so far not noticed this issue. Of course, I only have my car for 2 months, so I'm not much of a reference.

Do you mean that the light bundle is too narrow?
Or are you missing the swiveling headlights that other cars have? (like my previous car, for example)
The Model S (with tech pack) does have cornering lights which light up the inside of the corner when turning. They only work up until 40 km/h, though. Do mean that you don't have the cornering lights or that the speed to work on is too low or that they're not efficient enough?

So many questions, sorry :-) Just like to clear up the question.

For reference of other readers, this is your previous post:

I enjoy the increased night time visibility afforded by the turning lights. Is your issue related to the fact that they phase out at a certain speed threshold? If so , I'm sure that's amenable to a firmware upgrade if the idea is sufficiently endorsed to ownership.

I have never in my life known anyone with a car that had cornering lights. So the Model S does have some kind of cornering lights, but they aren't good enough? Okay, fine, talk about how they can be improved, but calling it a "major safety issue" is a bit much, don't you think?

First off, thanks, Chris, for finding that link. Second, I don't have the tech package. Third, I was in a GTI the other night and was blown away by how much better the headlights were on that car (and, yes, they were auto swiveling).



Again, I don't have cornering lights. My point is that VISIBILITY and basic safety shouldn't be an optional upgrade (although, at this point, I'll pay anything to see better while turning).


@ mike,

You have the halogen lights. If there is an issue, it must be specific to those lights. I have the HIDs - which is standard equipment - and there is absolutely no visibility issue.

No problems here either. Have the car for a over a year now with tech package.

How about reducing speed if you feel visibility is not sufficient? Speed limits in the US are generally set to be on the hypercautious side for the average cheap car. If you have trouble with a MS, then you are speeding. In LA, going up Topanga from PCH to the 101 is a lot of fun, and I have not had any problems with the car at night going up to speed limit (45 MPH). The major issue is other "flatlander" drivers creeping up. Grew up on Switzerland; we have a few mountain roads there.

If a particular set of headlights is a make-or-break issues for you, get a car with those headlights.

Given your newfound knowledge, perhaps a title edit is in order.

these are the posts that keep be away from the forum for weeks at a stretch...


HOW did you get the HIDs?? Tesla just told me that they won't install HIDs/LEDs. Did they come with the car? If not, where did you go for installation?

Inverts--as for speed, I'm talking about 5-10 mph turns--total black out. It's not a speed issue.

Bighorn--I'll edit the title (if that's even possible) once I feel it's warranted. For now, seeing black on turns is not cool. And, btw, in case you suspect that my adult eyes are a factor, my teenage sons experience the same issue (from the passenger seat, of course ;)


HID headlights come with the tech package.

Even better: Xenon HID headlights are now standard. You don't need the tech pack for those any longer.
So I guess Tesla did listen to you, but of course that doesn't solve your problem, I understand that.

Isn't HID standard on all MS now? I have driving my new MS few night without noticing any issues op described. I live in an area that have very dark and winding streets with people walking/joggin after dark.

Correct--Xenon comes standard on every Model S now. There is a small cohort of "early adopters" (~1%) who did not order the tech package who received halogen apparently. I don't know when TM transitioned to HID for all.

To be clear:

Standard today: Xenon headlights with automatic on/off

Part of Tech Package today: LED cornering lights

Previously the Xenon headlights were part of the Tech Package, I don't know what was standard then or when they made Xenon standard.

@mike, have you emailed ownership@ or talked to your service center yet?

You should.

+1 @NKYTA - I don't know why it took 16 replies for someone to mention contacting TM.

@mike - you have now had 2 threads spanning 7 months trying to find people to support your crusade against Tesla's cornering lights policy, and so far no one is on board. Clearly this isn't a concern to most people, but it is very important for you. Therefore your time is probably best spent working with your service center to find a solution for your dissatisfaction. They can be very helpful. Trying to push an agenda on the forum is more likely to leave you feeling frustrated and helpless.

Just my 2 cents.

Post a video. Not that it will probably help any..

To be fair, I was the one who dug out the old thread, not Mike.
And it seems that he is going to take your advice or took it already,

@ mike,

My Xenon HID lights came with the car - I have the tech package. However, it's a very easy swap for the service center to change out your headlight assembly. If you are asking them to change the bulb from halogen to xenon, it won't happen. But if you're willing to pay for a swap of both headlight assemblies (the entire thing, not just the bulb), then you should have no issues. Tesla would be happy to sell those to you.

@ mike,

Also, would you mind changing your thread title? It is not really accurate. There is no "major safety issue", otherwise others would have also reported the same. You are simply seeking information on how to upgrade your lights to HIDs, which we have provided. It might be more accurate to change your thread title to something like "Headlights - how to upgrade to HID?"

What did we ever do before cornering lights and adaptive headlights? Amazing that we've survived so far with this "major safety issue." For the record, I have the cornering lights on my S, have adaptive self-leveling headlights on my BMW motorcycle. They are interesting gewgaws to show off to friends, but do nothing for safety. I have also never come close to hitting a curb with or without self-turning headlights.

I disagree completely.
Cornering lights, swiveling headlights, Xenon HID lights or LED headlights improve visibility for the driver. How does that NOT improve safety?

Auto leveling makes sure that you don't blind anyone coming from the other direction and that your light always optimally illuminates the road ahead. Again, a safety feature.

Remember how long we've "survived" without seat belts? Without ABS? Especially tell the surviving bit to the people who were killed because someone didn't see them or because they flew through a window during an accident not wearing a seat belt.

@Pungoteague_Dave: I too have active curve illumination in my Mercedes and I absolutely LOVE this feature. Just because you see no value in seeing where you are turning your car into at night does not mean others don't value that feature.

In fact whenever I drive my girlfriend's Volvo S80 at night I complain about the lack of vision when turning into a darkly lit residential road at night. With my Mercedes as soon as I turn on the turn indicator, it lights up the area I am about to turn into and when driving in residential neighborhoods I appreciate being able to tell if there is a small child or pet along the side of the curb BEFORE I make the turn.

I haven't driven a Model S at night time but when I order one I will order it with the fog lights because I understand Tesla uses the fog lights for cornering and I appreciate any extra illumination I can get.

And what's this about comparing to how we got by without cornering illumination systems. Yes, we also got by with internal combustion engines too buy after my current car I am done with them.

Whatever that can be improved should be improved and when you pay a certain amount for a car, it is not unreasonable to expect features found in similarly priced cars.

And for those who are curious, the Mercedes lighting system is not just for illuminating curves. It is speed dependent and also depends on what type of road that you are driving on. Basically at night time it enhances illumination and if you drive with the high beams on, it automatically adjusts for oncoming traffic.

I have the cornering lights on my car but I don't even notice them. Perhaps it is because I have the tech package?

I watch way down the road when I drive. Most of the corners I encounter are blind corners, so I take them at a lower speed.

The roads I travel are rural windy hills with switchbacks about half of the time. The rest is freeway and city/burbs. When on straights, I have my eyes on the road as far ahead as I can possibly see so that I can see the reflection of my headlights in an animal's eyes. My spouse is from a big town. I'm always having to remind him to watch further down the road and watch the ditches/shoulders when on highways and roads. City kids...

I am having trouble envisioning the situation where the cornering lights are useful. When I look for them they are shining into a ditch immediately in front of me and I am already cornering.

If you have cornering lights and they don't make a noticeable difference when turning, IMHO they are not doing their job and need to be redesigned or something is wrong with them.

"I haven't driven a Model S at night time but when I order one I will order it with the fog lights because I understand Tesla uses the fog lights for cornering and I appreciate any extra illumination I can get."

No, the fog lights are not used as cornering lights. There are separate LED cornering lights that come with the tech package and have nothing to do with the fog lights.

The fog lights are more for being seen than for seeing.

Again, I have had adaptive headlights on two prior MB GL 320's, two BMW cars, two BMW motorcycles, one Porsche, and we have the cornering lights on the Tesla. Gimmicks.

If you can't see well at night, you shouldn't be driving. I acknowledge a SMALL marginal safety benefit, certainly not anywhere close to being in the league of ABS, seat belts, or air bags - CERTAINLY not a stop-the-clock emergency as stated by OP. It isn't as if standard headlights have no peripheral illumination. If you have ANY chance of over-running your vision with whatever lights you have, then SLOW DOWN. How fast do you go around corners anyway?

You are essentially saying that every Honda, Toyota, VW, etc., on the road are fundamentally unsafe cars because this technology is just now emerging and not available yet on those marques. Absurd. Even the vast majority of Mercedes delivered today do not have this feature, and they were the first to make it available about 15 years ago (there were some mechanical system on American cars in the 1950's and 1960's, like on the Olds Toronado), but in modern terms, this is a luxury, not a needed feature. Note that international standards require that cornering lights NOT function above 40kph (25mph). That's to keep other drivers from being blinded.

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