Brighter, More Effective Headlights Now a Step Closer

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
brighter more effective headlights now a step closer

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration might soon grant automakers a long sought-after wish. On Thursday, the agency put forward a proposal to allow adaptive driving beam headlamps on U.S. passenger vehicles.

ADB lights would solve two problems at once: insufficient roadway illumination, as well as headlight glare. Despite the existence of automatic high beams, automakers currently have to find a happy medium in the amount of low-beam light thrown ahead of the car to prevent blinding oncoming motorists. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which recently added headlight performance to its ratings criteria, plenty of new cars fail to find the right balance.

With ABD headlamps, drivers wouldn’t have to switch between low and high beams. The advent of LED clusters means a car’s headlight could operate continually in high-beam mode, shutting off only the portion of the beam travelling towards oncoming cars and leaving the rest of the road (and the shoulder) brightly illuminated. It’s a system automakers like Toyota and Audi have advocated for for years. Europe allows such headlight systems, but existing U.S. regulations, which specifically call for low and high beams, don’t allow it.

ABD systems “utilize advanced equipment, including sensors (such as cameras), data processing software, and headlamp hardware (such as shutters or LED arrays),” the NHTSA wrote in its proposal. “ADB systems detect oncoming and preceding vehicles and automatically adjust the headlamp beams to provide less light to the occupied roadway and more light to the unoccupied roadway.”

Essentially, the newer system offers a beam that’s “sculpted to traffic on the road,” the NHTSA said, encouraging drivers to use their high beams more often. All of this lends itself to a safer roadway. Nighttime pedestrian deaths, the agency noted, rose 56 percent between 2009 and 2016.

As part of its proposal to amend existing regulations, the NHTSA plans to create a new testing regimen for ABD headlight systems, ensuring that illumination and glare falls within acceptable levels.

[Source: Bloomberg, via Automotive News]

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  • Walleyeman57 Walleyeman57 on Oct 15, 2018

    If you think the federal government can’t screw this up- you haven’t bought a portable gas can in the last 5 years.

  • Lightspeed Lightspeed on Oct 15, 2018

    I know I am getting a little older, but the new crop of LED festooned cars are blinding to the pint of being dangerous. When I bought my 2000 Lexus GS, it was one of the first cars with HID (which height adjust with the suspension BTW)and those lights were a revelation. Now with the streets full of aftermarket HID, light bars, LED street lamps, and now LED OEM, my headlamps are washed out in all the glare. Night time in the rain is almost undriveable for me now.

  • David S. Bear Tooth and Chief Joseph highways.
  • StormEagle 400 miles range
  • Inside Looking Out Enforcing laws? It is so yesterday! Welcome to California!
  • Lou_BC You'd think cops would have an understanding of the laws they are supposed to enforce.
  • Merlyn I’m on my second Spark and love it! I can pass any car I’ve never had a problem going up a hill it does just fine. As for cargo I can fit three suitcases, two book bags and still have the front seat for a passenger. Not sure what point this guy is trying to make. I have hand free phone service and Sirius radio plug in my phone and have navigation. I would buy another spark in a heartbeat.