By on August 3, 2016

headlights (Daniel Böswald/Flickr]

A headlamp supplier wants U.S. regulators to approve its new design, which eliminates the need for drivers to switch their high beams on or off.

Varroc Lighting Systems, Inc., the U.S. division of the India-based company, developed a headlamp that automatically dims by shutting off individual LEDs, according to Crain’s Detroit Business (via Automotive News).

While auto-dimming headlamps are a common sight, Varroc’s new lighting system, called ADB, goes a step further. With ADB, a vehicle’s high beams would be on permanently, with several LEDs shutting off if the system detects an oncoming car. The manner in which the LEDs shut down keeps the road ahead brightly illuminated, but prevents glare for the oncoming driver.

Scott Montessi, Varroc Lighting’s director of product development, said six to seven LEDs would shut down out of a total of about 40. The headlamps would keep the oncoming driver in a dark patch, or “black box.”

“Lamps have been the same for nearly 60 years, but LEDs and new technologies are changing the landscape,” Montessi told Crain’s. The ADB system, which starts appearing on European models this year, provides an extra 100 feet of illumination, Montessi said. That’s good for an extra one or two seconds of reaction time.

U.S. and European regulators play by different rules, and the ADB system currently isn’t allowed on these shores. However, that could soon change. Varroc, along with Toyota, petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to allow the technology on U.S. vehicles.

The NHTSA is expected to adopt European standards within the next year. That can’t come soon enough for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which recently began rating headlamps (and found most of them to be awful).

[Image: Daniel Böswald/Flickr]

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48 Comments on “Varroc Wants Drivers to Forget About High Beams...”

  • avatar

    BMW models sold in the US with the LED Adaptive headlights already have a similar feature built in. They are decoded to not function because of NHTSA laws.

  • avatar

    Don’t all the European manufacturers already make these?

    It’s only our archaic DOT lighting regulations that prevent their appearance in the US market, along with the animated LED directionals.

  • avatar

    This doesnt make sense in the city. In the city it should always be a dipped beam. No way this system is reducing glare for pedestrians or other non-car type objects who don’t want to be glared. Only in rural areas does an “always on selectively dimmed bright beam when another vehicle is detected” make sense.

  • avatar

    Well hell, my ’79 Lincoln does that.

  • avatar

    These systems are increasingly common in Yurope. Some brands(BMW) use active optics and mechanical shutters to create “dark spots” in the beam pattern, while others (Audi) use fixed leds with precise optics that activate/deactivate in a controlled manner.

    Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute is also doing research using DLP projectors as headlights with infinitely adjustable beam patterns. the system is so advanced it can track individual rain drops and “shade” them so that glare is reduced.

    There are some videos of these systems on youtube… quite impressive.

  • avatar

    I’m curious to see how they work. I guess on a multi-lane highway your high beams would always be off.

  • avatar

    Interesting idea, provided it defaults to some sort of sane setting if the sensor fails, otherwise we’ll have clueless people driving around with their brights on all the time.

    Although will it help people dumb enough to not turn their lights on to begin with? Every night on the drive home I see at least two or three people driving with no headlights/tail lights on. Think they would clue in when cars flash lights at them? Nope!

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve forgotten to put my head lights on because my ’03 Z’s dash lights are always on. Thus I think my lights are on too, especially since most of the roads I travel on are so well lit you almost don’t need head lights. On the opposite end of things is my wife’s Volvo which has automatic lights thus she hasn’t touch a headlight switch in 3 years. I rent often for work, so along with backup cameras and blind spot warnings these automatic lights are one of those “darn I wish my car had that!” things I miss when I go back to driving my decade old plus vehicle.

      • 0 avatar

        Unfortunately driving around with the lights off when they should be on seems to be getting more common with the increasing number of cars that light up the instrument cluster when the key is on. Toyota’s seem to be the most common offenders in my area.

        • 0 avatar

          Amen to that. Every evening at dusk I encounter at least one Toyota or Honda coming out of the shadows with no headlamps on. At least the much maligned VW solves this problem with a light sensor in the instrument cluster that darkens it if it is night and your lights aren’t on. Easy reminder to a. Turn on your headlights or b. Just leave the damned things in auto mode.

        • 0 avatar

          Every car that I have had with an always lit dashboard has a little green indicator to show if your headlights are on or not. There is also a second green indicator for fog lights. It seems like people don’t understand these indicators.

          What I want to know is why AUTO HEADLIGHTS are not a standard feature on every car? At least up here in Canada DTRL is standard on all cars, but a decent percentage of people still don’t realize the difference between DTRL and actual headlights.

          My Toyota Prius had auto headlights… which I really appreciated. Both my recent model year Hyundai’s (Elantra and SantaFe Sport) do not have official auto headlights, but if you leave the headlamp switch in the ‘on’ position, when you exit and lock the car, the headlamps turn off.

  • avatar

    From what I’ve seen since moving to the USA 15 years ago, most American drivers don’t even know they have high beams or what they are for. If you see a car with them on, the driver probably did it by accident.

    • 0 avatar

      Low beams are for dark. High beams are for when it’s REALLY dark.

      Or, for when one of your lights is out, just put the other one on high to make up for it. What’s the confusion?

      • 0 avatar

        We always said there are two positions…more light and less light. People of course want MOAR light, so they make sure that the little blue light is on the dash.

        The other thing you need to know is that cell phone reception is better in the left lane.

        Why the high/low beam thing is “a thing” amazes me.

        We don’t have amber turn signals for the very same reason we had crap sealed beams for so long….Detroit won’t spend the money. Whatever trivial amount of money a two toned signal would cost over a red one is a deal breaker for the bean counters…

        I’m amazed that DOT allows the lights in my Caddy to swivel and follow the road. That is something you don’t appreciate until you have it…and is only a tiny toe in the water for modern headlights…which are in other countries…

        • 0 avatar

          No. The DOT mandated sealed beams for decades starting 1940. Automakers used separate bulbs and all kinds of shapes of headlight assemblies before then.

          American and import automakers already make cars with amber turn signals in countries where they are mandated. It probably actually costs them more to have two types than just use the same in both. Apparently, they think people in the US still prefer red turn signals. Anyway, there are plenty of examples of amber turn signals here, such as my 12 year old Alero.

        • 0 avatar

          “People of course want MOAR light, so they make sure that the little blue light is on the dash.”

          ..except for the idiots out there who think tinting their headlights is cool.

          I once knew someone who tinted the headlamps on his pickup. I was confused and asked how he sees at night with the tinted lights… his response was that he drove around with his high-beams on all the time….. dumbass….

    • 0 avatar

      Because most people in the USA are not taught about the dangers of over-driving the headlights, in other words, when your maximum sight distance is lower than your minimum braking distance.

      • 0 avatar

        Because ’55 saves lives’ and we are taught the right pedal is BAD. GM designed all their cars in the 80’s to this standard, which partly why they tanked. Only folks who thought this could install the four small square lights, the worst ever put on a production car.

        This is why you see clumps of traffic where a small boost would clear you from the pack. This is worst in VA, where a super speeder law makes sure that everyone does the 70 mph limit, but all are afraid to pass for fear they peak 80 mph and get a $2000 ticket.

        Not nearly as bad in other states, but we’ve all seen clumps on open roads…the person in the left lane who cannot pass the slow and correctly placed truck in the right lane…so we all back up behind them….

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Please, yes, approve this and make everyone over 60 or who has a serious disinterest in the basic operation of their car install them. There are a lot of elderly people in my town just moseying a mile down the road to the grocery store with their high beams on. I cannot tell if it is stubborn adherence to a practice they feel makes them safer, or if they genuinely do not know they are on.

    It seems like the effectiveness of this technology would depend highly on car owners keeping their headlights aimed properly, however.

    • 0 avatar

      In defense of my own kind I must note that modern gazilliondy-function stalks, one of whose options is to toggle brights, are absurdly less positive and unmistakable a control than the old stomp buttons.

      It’s way too easy to accidentally turn the brights on and the little blue icon in the gauge cluster indicating that you did is often completely blocked by the banister-thick steering wheel rim. Add macular degeneration or other age-related vision defects and you get the perma-brights.

      • 0 avatar

        Did Sears ever make fog lights an option on your model?

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        New fangled steering wheel stalks, they’ve only been mainstream for 30 years!

        Self-driving personal Google pods can’t come soon enough for the nation’s elderly. They will extend independent mobility for years and I hope they are around when I get there.

        But, if a turn signal stalk throws me through a loop I can’t imagine the difficulty I’ll have properly programming in the destination on the autonomous car. Intended to go to the Walgreens down the street for my dozen prescriptions but ended up at the Walmart distribution center 50 miles outside town. Terrified and low on fuel. Stomping futilely for the floorboard highbeams button that hasn’t been there for sixty years, trying to get someone to notice me.

        • 0 avatar

          “New fangled steering wheel stalks, they’ve only been mainstream for 30 years!”

          About as long as rap. Sh1t be all dumpin’ at once.

        • 0 avatar

          My recently-acquired MKZ has two curious, related characteristics:

          1) The high beam indicator is incredibly dim, much more so than any other car I have driven.

          2) When the high beams are accidentally left on, I don’t get half the flashes from oncoming drivers that I used to get.

          The car has adaptive LED headlights.

          • 0 avatar

            Maybe “bunkie” is driving with the daytim running lights (DRL) on instead of normal lower beam or upper beam, tail lamps, side markers lamps etc on. Th dim upper beam tell-tale is used in some cars to indicate that the DRL are on. No wonder nobody is flashing.

        • 0 avatar

          I know that more than a few times when I’ve asked google maps for say “costco” it will give me directions to a warehouse a couple of states away. So yeah ask the car to take you to the Walgreens and it decides you need to go to the one 500 miles away instead of the one 5 miles away.

        • 0 avatar

          Well, on my 1995 Skylark (RIP) and my 2005 Dakota, you pull the stalk toward you for brights. On the 1995 Skylark, you can find the headlight switch on that same stalk, but it’s on the dash on the Dakota. On my 2004 Alero, you push the stalk away.

          If you think there’s an interface standard here, you must have only ever driven one car.

  • avatar

    This can’t come soon enough! Was in France last year with a 7 Series rental, and I couldn’t figure out what was happening while I had the brights on in the dark French countryside. Then I remembered hearing about these lights, left it on, and let me tell you the way it works and the view of the road ahead and to the sides is absolutely incredible. Oncoming traffic, curves in the road, coming up behind others…the car simply adjusted the way the lights aimed and you never blasted those other vehicles.

    In short, I was sold within about 2 minutes of using it. And 100% agree the hi/lo regulation in the USA must go ASAP. This has the potential to save lives and reduce crashes, I’ve got no doubt in my mind.

    While we’re changing lighting regulations, can we also go ahead and switch to the requirement that blinkers must always be orange?

    • 0 avatar

      “While we’re changing lighting regulations, can we also go ahead and switch to the requirement that blinkers must always be orange?”

      Hell yes. I was behind some sort of late model Chrysler product, Caravan or Avenger, and the entire brake light is used for the signal. That’s ridiculous.

  • avatar

    Please approve these lights for bicycles. Modern LEDs allow cyclists to have all the brightness of a Porsche with little regulation. I get blinded by oncoming bikes more often than by cars.

  • avatar

    Koito and Stanley Japan have this already in Japan. How long does NHTSA need to approve this tech that’s already proven to be effective?

  • avatar

    +1 for these new lighting systems.
    Also needed are: a system to tell you someone has changed your “auto” setting on the stalk to “off” and a system to extinguish a turn signal blinker after 30″ or one mile. I have followed people through multiple townships with their signal lights blinking and not all of them were too old to notice.

  • avatar

    “Lamps have been the same for nearly 60 years”

    When you lead with a lie, I instantly stop trusting you.

  • avatar

    Am I alone in not trusting this tech and thinking it unnecessary (like so much else “safety tech”)?? Granted, I guess I’ve yet to travel to Europe and experience how effective they are, but there’s a big part of me that really wonders how effective it can be at identifying (and creating a “black box” for) every set of eyeballs it may need to. Will it effectively spot and do that for cyclists and pedestrians? If so, how will it distinguish animals? How effectively will it do it for cars it is following, as opposed to oncoming cars with their own headlights on? Plenty of other questions.

    Side rant – what’s with the few automobiles (mostly jacked up pickup trucks, it seems) I’ve started seeing with the super-bright row of lights usually mounted somewhere on the front bumper??? Dang those things are bright and annoying to have behind you – even if you are ahead of them by a quarter mile.

  • avatar

    I’m sorry but all the freaking headlights are too damn bright already.

    What’s with running high beams in the neighborhood with 30 mph speed limits and a streetlight every 200 feet?

    What’s with running fog lights when there’s no fog?

    I hate the new low beams that zap the sh!t out of you when the oncoming car rocks just the slightest amount on the road surface and the “cutoff” runs past your retina leaving only smoking rods and cones in its path.

    The new weird super-styled headlights with rows of LEDs etc. just look goofy.

    Honestly, I think the DOT may have had it right back when they only allowed sealed beams. I would modify that now to allow other technologies for high beams, but I would totally support sealed beam lights only for low beams.

  • avatar

    I wonder how this system would handle heavy snow or fog. What about if it detects an animal on the road before the driver does and dims the lights directed at Mr. Moose thinking its a pedestrian?

  • avatar

    My 1956 Cadillac Sedan deVille had this feature sixty years ago. It was called the autronic eye. Worked just fine all the way from California to Minnesota and back in 1969.

  • avatar
    punkybrewstershubby aka Troy D.

    This. Needs. To. Happen.

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