Feb 16, 2022 - Economy & Business

U.S. clears way for automakers to install smart headlights

Photo of a highway with cars stuck in traffic amid a snowstorm

Heavy traffic moving eastbound on the Long Island Expressway in East Hills, New York at the start of a snowstorm on Dec. 16, 2020. Photo: J. Conrad Williams, Jr./Newsday RM via Getty Images

The Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a rule Tuesday to allow adaptive driving beam headlights, or smart headlights, in the U.S.

Why it matters: The technology, which relies on sensors and LED light, will help prevent crashes by allowing better illumination of pedestrians, animals and objects without impairing the visibility of drivers in other vehicles, NHTSA said.

  • Adaptive driving beam headlight systems, which are commonplace in Europe and Canada, automatically focus beams on darker, unoccupied areas while reducing the intensity of illumination in times of oncoming traffic.
  • Research released in 2019 by the American Automobile Association found that European vehicles with adaptive headlight systems increase roadway lighting by as much as 86% when compared to U.S. low beam headlights.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Joann Muller: It's about time that the U.S. caught up with the rest of the world when it comes to smart headlights.

  • These adaptive driving beams are going to dramatically improve safety for pedestrians, cyclists and other motorists by illuminating the roadway where and when you need it — without blinding oncoming traffic.

What they're saying: "NHTSA prioritizes the safety of everyone on our nation’s roads, whether they are inside or outside a vehicle. New technologies can help advance that mission," said Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s deputy administrator, in a statement.

  • "NHTSA is issuing this final rule to help improve safety and protect vulnerable road users."
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