With apologies to Bruce Springsteen and Manfred Mann the days of being "Blinded by the Light" may be numbered.
After years of pleading from global automakers, led by Toyota, NHTSA announced this month that it is considering a dramatic change to the long-standing rules that govern automobile headlights. If approved, the change — currently in a comment period before official review — would allow automakers to install and enable adaptive driving beam headlights on new cars sold in the U.S.
Put simply, adaptive driving beam headlights make it possible to drive with high beams on without having to worry about blinding other motorists. The high-tech headlights continuously modify and redirect the light coming from each headlight, moving it away from the gaze of oncoming motorists and pedestrians — and the rearview mirrors of vehicles ahead — while better illuminating areas where no vehicles are present.
"In our opinion, it would make a really big difference" to allow adaptive driving beam headlights, said Matthew Brumbelow, a senior research engineer with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. "The main balancing act with headlights in general is achieving good visibility for your vehicle without glaring everyone else on the road. Typically, that's done with low and high beams, and for the most part, that's been left to people to decide which is appropriate."
The problem, Brumbelow says, is that most people underuse their high beams. In a study of high-beam use, IIHS found that 80 percent of drivers fail to turn on their high-beam lights when they should.