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Adaptive headlights that don’t blind drivers are finally going to be road legal in the US

It’s been a nine-year process, but the wait is almost over.

adaptive headlight bump on porsche 911 carerra
Image: Porsche

Good news, motorists! The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is about to make adaptive headlights road legal in the US. No more being blinded by high-beam headlights from oncoming traffic.

Okay, maybe I should temper my enthusiasm slightly. The NHTSA issued what’s known as a “final rule” on Tuesday; which paves the way for “adaptive driving beam headlights” to join the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

See, currently, the only type of beam headlights that are road legal in the US are low beams and “dumb” high beams. Turning high beams on and off automatically are road legal, but it can’t shape the beam at all. That means that even the best automatic systems dazzle oncoming drivers, even for a split second.

That’s a split second too long. However, adaptive driving beam headlights can help. The tech uses a complex array of LEDs to create the headlight’s beam. This adjusts dynamically in response to driving conditions, like light, the curve of the road, and other vehicles.

READ MORE: Study shows that iPhone owners really are the worst drivers

That means the system can illuminate the road surface, without shining light at other drivers. It’s a win-win and has been in use in Europe for some time. The advanced headlights are safer too, with studies showing that vehicles with adaptive headlights make fewer insurance claims.

Here’s a quick video on BMW’s adaptive headlights for those who prefer visual learning:

This final rule by the NHTSA means that automakers can finally start using adaptive beam headlights in US-bound cars. We expect that luxury vehicles will be the first to get the tech, as with any new automotive inventions.

The only thing? The price of safety isn’t cheap. For example, Audi’s adaptive beam lights are a $3,000 option on its e-Tron Sportsback EV. But it will be years before the lower end of the automotive market gets the tech.

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Maker, meme-r, and unabashed geek. Hardware guy here at KnowTechie, if it runs on electricity (or even if it doesn't) I probably have one around here somewhere. My hobbies include photography, animation, and hoarding Reddit gold.

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