NHTSA might turn on the auto industry’s high-tech headlights

October 11, 2018 20:17 CET

WASHINGTON — U.S. auto safety regulators are moving to allow a new generation of brighter, self-dimming headlights that won’t blind other drivers on the road ahead.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is proposing to permit so-called adaptive driving beam headlights on new cars, according to an agency notice made public Thursday. The advanced lights essentially operate as high-beam headlamps at all times while automatically dimming specific portions of the beam to cast less light on oncoming vehicles detected by sensors.

The technology “has the potential to reduce the risk of crashes by increasing visibility without increasing glare,” NHTSA said in a notice made public Thursday. The agency added that “it offers potentially significant safety benefits in avoiding collisions with pedestrians, cyclists, animals, and roadside objects.”

Automakers including Toyota, BMW and Audi for years have urged NHTSA to update the headlight standard to accommodate the high-tech lights, saying they can improve safety by providing better illumination while avoiding glare for other drivers.

The headlights have been permitted in Europe for more than a decade and are also allowed in Japan and other countries but automakers have interpreted NHTSA’s longstanding headlight rule as prohibiting the technology.

The agency is seeking comments on the proposal, which would establish performance requirements for adaptive driving beams.

Toyota petitioned the agency to amend its headlight rules in 2016. Volkswagen Group petitioned the agency in 2016 to allow the lights on the Audi A7 sedan, while BMW filed a similar petition in October 2017.

Reuters contributed to this report

You can reach Ryan Beene at autonews@crain.com.

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