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]