Adaptive Driving Beam Technology Has Had Great Success Overseas, Recently Brought to the States
The concept of smart technology, especially as it pertains to vehicles, has been a popular topic of debate among manufacturers, safety officials, engineers, and the general public. Self-driving, or autonomous technology, is one obvious example; other examples include blind spot detection, front crash avoidance, and lane-departure warning systems. Something you may not be familiar with is now on its way to the United States, and it has to do with one of the most overlooked safety features on any vehicle on the road, headlights.
Adaptive Headlights Not a New Concept
The idea of having headlights that adapt or automatically adjust to real-time situations was first introduced in Germany by three different automakers; in many countries, they are now considered standard safety equipment on vehicles. Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Toyota, and many others are now equipping their vehicles with adaptive driving beam (ADB) headlights. In a recent national newspaper article, it was noted that the U.S. requires headlights to have two distinct beams, high and low, thus the U.S. has not approved ADB headlights. That is until now.
Recently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), decided it would now allow U.S. vehicles to use ADB headlights as the federal agency noted that these headlights could help prevent auto accidents during nighttime hours. As reported, NHTSA officials agreed that “The lights offer potentially significant safety benefits in avoiding collisions with pedestrians, cyclists, animal, and roadside objects.”
Improving road safety during nighttime hours is an ongoing battle. National Safety Council research shows that fatal vehicle crashes are three times more likely to happen at night than during the day. Many factors contribute to that statistic, including drivers with night vision issues and those who drive drowsy or impaired. Regardless of what causes a crash, safety officials are working hard to reduce the number of car accidents and fatalities in Colorado and across this country.
Last year, more than 37,000 people died in vehicle crashes, 648 of those fatalities occurred right here in Colorado. So, could adaptive headlights be the newest technology that helps reduce those numbers? Now that NHTSA has changed the rules centered on headlights, automakers can begin introducing the technology in the U.S. with the goal of making nighttime driving safer for everyone.
How Adaptive Headlights Work
A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety a few years ago, showed that despite all vehicles having a high beam on their headlights, most drivers don’t turn them on, even when it could greatly increase visibility. With adaptive headlights, drivers don’t have to turn them on; the high-beam will turn itself on and off as the situation warrants, especially if the beam detects an oncoming car; it will automatically adjust so as not to blind the oncoming driver. The ADB headlights do all the work without the driver having to make a decision. Using electronic sensors, the headlights will adapt to road conditions.
For instance, if you are about to come upon a curve, the headlights will turn with the vehicle, so it brightens the road ahead of you, so you see can clearly see what is ahead of you. Currently, headlights stay positioned so if you come upon a curve to the left, your headlights stay stationary, so when you make the curve, your vehicle is illuminating the side of the road, not the road ahead of you. Though the U.S. has just started using adaptive headlights, other countries have many years of use and have since advanced the technology to a greater degree. Some countries are using GPS-enabled headlights that allow the lights to be pre-programmed according to traffic that lies ahead.
Adaptive headlights are catching on in the U.S., and now all automakers can start implementing them into new models. As researchers are already noting, once drivers use these high-tech headlights, they are sold on the idea, and it’s encouraging news that the U.S. is now moving forward with this new safety feature.