WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Vehicles on U.S. roads will now be allowed to use advanced headlights known as “adaptive driving beams” that could help prevent nighttime crashes, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said on Tuesday.
The agency acted in response to a petition filed by Toyota Motor Corp in 2013 to allow the lights. They automatically adjust the beams using additional sensors so they can provide more illumination without a glare to oncoming motorists.
The headlights have been permitted in Europe for more than a decade and are also allowed in Japan, Canada and other countries. Volkswagen AG and BMW AG also later filed petitions to use the lights on U.S. vehicles.
The lights ran afoul of U.S. rules setting maximum levels for lower beams. An infrastructure law signed in November requires NHTSA to issue a final rule by late 2023 allowing advanced headlight use.
NHTSA said the rule “will improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists by making them more visible at night, and will help prevent crashes by better illuminating animals and objects in and along the road.”
U.S. pedestrian deaths are up 45% since 2010. In 2020, there were 6,236 pedestrian deaths — about 1 in 6 traffic deaths. NHTSA’s data shows about 72% of pedestrian fatalities and 51% of driver fatalities occur at night despite accounting for just 25% of vehicle miles traveled.
The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents nearly all major automakers, said research shows the headlights “can help provide enhanced down-road visibility without increasing glare to oncoming vehicles.”
Unlike some automatic headlight switch systems from high to low beams, adaptive headlights use sensors, cameras, data-processing software, and headlamp hardware to detect oncoming and preceding vehicles and automatically adjust the beams.
NHTSA has received thousands of complaints about headlight glare over the last four decades, especially with the introduction of halogen lights in the late 1970s and then high-intensity discharge lights in the 1990s.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by David Gregorio)