Ford Motor Co.'s new electronically sensored adaptive lighting system has eyes.

When the concept sedan (set to debut at the Detroit auto show) eases into a curve, its light-emitting-diode panel in the front headlight assembly glows a soft white to follow the contour of the road, giving the driver a wide view of the dark.

The panels are at once a safety feature and a technological strike for Ford, says Mahendra Dassanayake, staff technical specialist and the man who helped develop the new lighting system.

It bests the rest on the basis of the LEDs, he says. For example, Audi AG uses adaptive light for cornering for some models. BMW AG's adaptive light control has swiveling projector lamps for the same purpose.

But Ford, he says, has something new.

“We take electronically addressable light that works much faster,” Dassanayake says, stressing that Ford has used LEDs in some of its bank light fixtures in the past but never like this. “What we have is a fewer number of light sources but designed optically, so that we can shine light directly and with less energy.”

The steering wheel sensors kick in as the vehicle begins a turn, leaving the main high output halogen alone to do its thing while light from the LEDs sequentially spreads across the unfolding road.

The sensor processes information from the vehicle's steering angle, speed and lateral movement to talk to the LED panels.

Lincoln's '06 Aviator uses current adaptive technology, which mechanically adjusts the headlights to put them in line with the road, like a roving flashlight, leaving small parts of the big picture without illumination.

The price of Ford's new lighting is yet to be determined. Dassanayake promises it will be affordable and could be available by 2009, or sooner.