Listen, America. Adaptive high beams are finally becoming legal, thanks to a provision in the infrastructure law. This is great news for nighttime driving safety – your author is thrilled that this technology will finally be legal in cars sold in the US
Just in case you need a refresh, adaptive high beams are explained in full here in this story. But in short, it is the false headlights that we see in many European cars that can adapt their high beam illumination to the environment. The system uses cameras and sensors to spot other cars on the road and can trace a perfectly darkened opening for the other cars, while still emitting high beam-like light everywhere else. It also obscures road sign illumination as you approach them, so as not to dazzle the driver with a bright reflection. There’s also potential for much more, as some manufacturers have designed headlamps that can project warning signs onto the sidewalk, pivot upwards to mark pedestrians approaching the road, and more.
We missed something, but that’s about to change.
So, how did this technology finally find its way into legality? It has been banned for years due to outdated regulations in Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 108. The exact language that stopped manufacturers specifically states that headlamps must have a special low beam and a special high beam to comply and be legal on the road. The new infrastructure law changes that by including the following in a headlamp section: “to allow the use on vehicles of adaptive high-beam headlamp systems.”
This request comes in the form of an instruction to amend FMVSS No. 108 to include the adaptive high beam provision, and the bill allows two years to get it done. So yes, we could theoretically wait another two years, but no longer than that.
In addition to making adaptive high beam legal, the infrastructure law also says headlight performance testing will now be required. It doesn’t go much further than that, but we suspect it will resemble the headlight tests currently being conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).