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Adaptive LED Headlights Finally Get NHTSA Approval In The US

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The benefits of adaptive headlights are well known throughout the world, except in the United States where such lights are illegal. That is, they is illegal, but not anymore. Last November, a $1 billion infrastructure bill for the US was signed into law, and it contains steps to change outdated rules that keep adaptive headlights off US roads. However, new rules are needed to replace it before it becomes official. And now it’s official.

If you really want to read the new rules, you can view all 327 pages it’s on the website of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. For our purposes, we’re just going to explain why that’s a problem in the first place. In 1967, a regulation was enacted in the federal motor vehicle safety standards prohibiting both high and low beam lights from functioning at the same time. Since the whole point of adaptive headlights is to have simultaneous functionality to benefit the driver and other motorists, the old rule is a frustrating technicality that keeps new lighting technologies out of the US market.

For those unfamiliar, adaptive headlights essentially feature a computer-controlled collection of LEDs in the headlight housing that can be directed to a very specific location. Thus, adaptive headlights can illuminate the road far ahead of the driver similar to a headlight, while directing the light away from oncoming traffic. More sophisticated systems can even focus light to create symbols that light up the road in front of the car, such as arrows or other navigation clues.

Many luxury car makers such as Mercedes-Benz and Audi have been using adaptive headlights for years. Now that the legal path in the US is clear, when will American buyers be able to use the new technology? Motor1.com reached out to several automakers for comment on the new rules, though the trick lights probably won’t show up overnight. Audi spokesman, Jacob Brown, offered this insight in the near future.

“As a leader in lighting technology, Audi of America is excited about the FMVSS 108 amendment which will bring advanced driving beam headlights to US customers. We are actively evaluating the decision to determine next steps.”

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