Headlights - major safety issue

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)

chrisdl | 12 april 2014

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.

chrisdl | 12 april 2014

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

Bighorn | 12 april 2014

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.

Skotty | 12 april 2014

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?

mike | 12 april 2014

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).


mike | 12 april 2014


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).


AmpedRealtor | 12 april 2014

@ 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.

inverts | 12 april 2014

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.

Bighorn | 12 april 2014

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

lfeiwel | 12 april 2014

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

mike | 12 april 2014


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 ;)


zwede | 12 april 2014

HID headlights come with the tech package.

chrisdl | 12 april 2014

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.

carlk | 12 april 2014

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.

Bighorn | 12 april 2014

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.

empowered | 12 april 2014

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.

NKYTA | 12 april 2014

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

You should.

Jamon | 12 april 2014

+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.

cgiGuy | 12 april 2014

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

chrisdl | 12 april 2014

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,

AmpedRealtor | 12 april 2014

@ 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.

AmpedRealtor | 12 april 2014

@ 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?"

Pungoteague_Dave | 12 april 2014

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.

chrisdl | 12 april 2014

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.

LEvans | 12 april 2014

@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.

Captain_Zap | 12 april 2014

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.

LEvans | 12 april 2014

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.

AmpedRealtor | 12 april 2014

"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.

Captain_Zap | 12 april 2014

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

Pungoteague_Dave | 12 april 2014

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.

Captain_Zap | 12 april 2014

@WEB_SRFR - My spouse notices them, but I don't. He commented that he liked them. Perhaps just different driving styles?

LEvans | 12 april 2014

@AmpedRealtor: The only reason I'd order the fog lights is for the corner illumination as I love this feature in my Mercedes and want to retain it when I get a Tesla. You stated that "the fog lights are not used as cornering lights," but then why does it show a $500 option for the fog lights (with a claim about them being used for cornering) when ordering a P85 with the Tech Package?

The $500 fog light option's description clearly states that the fog lights will be used with the cornering lights when ordered with the Tech Package. Look it up...

So to get the cornering lights do you have to select the Tech Package AND the fog lights? This might explain why some people with the Tech Package are saying they don;t notice much of a difference.

"Cut through fog and illuminate obstacles on dark roads with LED fog lights that are controlled through the touchscreen. Our newly redesigned fog lights are designed to work with our LED cornering lights and headlights as a complete system."

LEvans | 12 april 2014

@Pungoteague_Dave: I have no problem seeing at night *knock on wood* but I certainly can't see what is not illuminated. All I said is that Mercedes has got this system right and it makes a big difference to me when I drive at night. It's only when I drive the Volvo that I notice how much better the Mercedes illumination system is.

I never said Honda, Toyota, VW, etc are not safe. Where did you get that? All I said is that to me, the intelligent and active illumination system of my Mercedes makes a big difference to what is illuminated in front of me when I drive at night. Apparently to you, it is all the same and that is fine. When I get my Tesla, I want to pay for whatever options are available to make the illumination comparable to what I have and appreciate now.

chrisdl | 12 april 2014

AmpedRealtor is right.

What they mean with the sentence you posted is simply that if you take the fog lights, you have a complete light cluster. The don't mean that you only get cornering lights when you take the fog lights, just like they don't mean that you only get headlights when you take the fog lights.

I do not have the fog lights. I still have the cornering lights.

The cornering lights are in the same case as the fog lights. The cornering LEDS are mounted on the side to illuminate the side of the road. The fog lights are mounted forward to illuminate the ground underneath the fog layer in front of the car.

LEvans | 12 april 2014

It seems misleading then. Obviously when you get fog lights you don't assume that the car no longer comes with headlights :)

The statement I copied, at least to me, suggest that when you order the fog lights it enhances the cornering illumination of the vehicle at night. This is how it works with my Mercedes. When I turn at night, the fog light on that side comes on, and it illuminates a substantial portion of the side I am turning to. I find the extra illumination worth the cost of the fog lights it if it works like it does on my Mercedes and not otherwise.

I guess what this means is before I get that option I should test drive at night with and without the fog lights and see how it affects corner illumination.

AmpedRealtor | 12 april 2014


I have both cornering lights and the new generation fog lights. There is nothing about that combination that is special in terms of functionality. The fact that your fog lights are on will, by default, improve visibility. Perhaps Tesla is referring to something esoteric, but if you do not have your fog lights turned on, the cornering lights do not activate them when turning.

LEvans | 12 april 2014

@AmpedRealtor: Thanks for letting me know. I guess I was mislead with the description for them on the Tesla Web site then. I assumed they'd work the way they work so effectively in my Mercedes. The Mercedes fog lights might have been built specially to augment cornering illumination then. If the Tesla fog lights offer any extra corner or curb illumination, maybe this is something that Tesla can activate with a software update.

In any case, when I place my order I will drive with and without the fog lights at night to see if Tesla has by then implemented similar to what Mercedes has done to improve cornering illumination.

AmpedRealtor | 12 april 2014


While I tend to post as if I know everything, I'm open to being wrong :)

I think it's actually a good idea to activate the fog light on the side where you are turning in addition to the LED turning lights, but knowing how my fog lights look when on, I can confidently say that I am not seeing anything close to that type of illumination. The LED turning lights are not particularly bright, but the fog lights are.

Maybe there some combined functionality here that I'm just not noticing? | 12 april 2014

I have the tech package (hence cornering lights) and got the gen 2 fog lights retrofitted - did not notice anything magical about cornering after the retrofit.

For the OP, you should talk to Service/Ownership about retrofit options for the HID - its more than a simple bulb swap, but I would assume its doable.


Bighorn | 12 april 2014

You made me look(at Tesla's ordering form)--fog light option makes no mention of cornering other than the fact that the fogs, turning lights and headlights comprise a complete system. Every tech package comes with turning lights regardless.

ELECTRICFAN | 12 april 2014

I have noticed I can't see around corners as well as I'd like. I have my windows tinted and put it down to that in part, but thinking about it I've had my windows tinted in every car I've owned (4 in the last 15 years) and never had this issue before. I do notice the side-lights (whatever they're called) coming on during turns, but they don't help near enough. Just my opinion.

Also, to the comments above to the effect "why are still posting about this issue?", sorry I think this is EXACTLY what these forums are for. To discuss issues we have with our expensive high-tech brand new cutting edge cars.

To anybody who thinks forums should be used for sales boosting and advancing Tesla Motors, sod off mate (as they say in Australia).

LEvans | 12 april 2014

@Bighorn: I see what you are saying and I think it is extremely redundant to say that the fog lights will work with the other lights and that they are all integrated. Obviously they are based on the photos. I was mislead by the fact that they explicitly mention how the fog lights are integrated, not with the general lighting system, but specifically with the cornering illuminating capabilities of the car. This all made sense to me because that's how the system in my Mercedes works but according to @AmpedRealtor the system as is might not be what I imagined and understood.

In any case I would not be buying one before AWD comes out so when that happens I will make it a point to see what benefit by then the fog lights add to corner illumination as that's the only reason I'd buy them.

Bighorn | 12 april 2014

Just reporting the facts--couldn't cut and paste Tesla's description or I would have. I think you'll discover that the fog lights have no effect on cornering visibility. I like the cornering LEDs and I can certainly see better turning onto a dark country lane than with my 540.

mal42north | 12 april 2014

I have the old halogen lights without the tech package, and there is a minor issue when taking a sharp turn at night. For instance my residential street is a right angle, right turn off the highway. The residential street drops down fairly steeply. When turning into the residential street there is essentially zero illumination until the car has turned through 45 degrees or so onto the residential street.. Its not a big problem for me because I obviously know the street fairly well, but if there was something non-illuminated near the junction there would be no way to see it.
There are other areas in the hills with the same geometry where there is essentially zero visibility. I can't say the situation with the S is any worse than it was with my old Prius classic. I usually carry a flashlight, and there were a couple of times when I drove the Prius where I had to stop the car and look out the passenger side window with the flashlight just to see where the road went. This would require a bit more contortion with the S, because its a much bigger car.
In these situations going slow does not help, because you can't see anything, no matter how slow you drive.

mrspaghetti | 12 april 2014

I never noticed any issues driving at night. I know you said your soon corroborated your experience, but perhaps it would be worth seeing an optometrist. Ask about night vision issues in particular.

DallasTXModelS | 12 april 2014

You knew you wanted cornering lights but were too damn cheap to order the Tech Package. Demanding it be added at no charge and post these asinine posts demanding them be added this afternoon because of the safety hazard is ridiculous.

I suppose next all of the cheap people that ordered the 40kWh battery should demand that the 85kWh battery be added for free by this afternoon because running out of electricity on the highway is a safety hazard.

jackhub | 12 april 2014

@ Dallas. When turning a corner, I get much better lighting and visibility in my 2005 Buick than I do in my Tesla 85. I don't have a tech package on my 2005 Buick.

Misunderstanding the issue doesn't really do much for the rest of us, does it?

Bighorn | 12 april 2014

@ jack
Details of your lights would be helpful--halogen or xenon, turning LEDs?

DallasTXModelS | 12 april 2014

I have the cornering lights. They are activated when turning sharp turns. They shine light perpendicular to the front bumper and fill in the other 45 degrees where the headlights do not shine. Highway turns are so gradual they never come on.

DallasTXModelS | 12 april 2014

If not having cornering lights is so hazardous governments would require them on evety car.