There are a lot of dark roads out there, especially in Alabama. Rural roads tend to have fewer (if any) streetlights, and local roads near any of our national forests tend to be darker still. Chances are good you’ve driven around with your high beams on without thinking about it, temporarily blinding an unexpected driver traveling in the other direction. Chances are also good you’ve been blinded once or twice yourself.
Well, thanks to a recent provision in the infrastructure bill, we may not need to worry about this anymore. Adaptive driving beams may soon be legal, and we say it’s about time they were.
What are adaptive high beams?
Essentially, the high beams never fully turn off at night when you’re driving along a dark road. Instead of operating like an on/off light switch as all current U.S. high beams do, [a vehicle with adaptive high beams] simply darkens the LEDs (a fraction of the 84 available) that would otherwise be shining in the eyes of oncoming drivers. The system uses cameras and sensors to pick out other cars on the road, and is able to trace a perfect darkened opening for the other cars, while still throwing out high beam-like light everywhere else.
In other words, the car will be able to illuminate the road and potentially reduce the risk of a car accident, while ensuring that other drivers aren’t blinded along the way.
Another feature associated with the adaptive high beam system is the Front Cross Traffic Alert feature. This feature allows vehicles to detect crossing vehicles and bicycles as far away as 50 miles ahead. When a vehicle or bicycle is near, a warning is sent to the Head-up Display to alert the driver of the other vehicle’s position two to four seconds before the vehicle is due to cross.
When the driver decides to progress towards crossing vehicles, audio alerts begin to sound to enable the driver to stop in time. This feature allows drivers to confidently pass through busy intersections and provide additional support for nighttime driving and other movable objects to avoid car accidents.
What are the benefits of the adaptive high beam system?
One neat thing about adaptive high beams, Auto Blog reports, is the way it “cuts around” other vehicles when you are traveling in the dark:
The high beams cut a perfect rectangle of shade out of the cars I follow, but stay up on both sides, allowing me to see forward and around the car directly in front of me. The extra light thrown could easily help me pick out a deer or other animal that would be hiding in shadow on the side of the road. It’s especially powerful on curves, as the light follows the car in front of you around the bend, staying just a beat behind it to keep from blinding the driver.
The adaptive high beam system is also beneficial in poor weather conditions. The system can illuminate the road ahead with better accuracy and less reflection from certain weather conditions like heavy fog. Some adaptive high beam systems can change the shape of the light beam and incorporate fog lights into the system.
This system can also supply enough illumination for road signs and the environment in front of the driver without causing glare and blinding other oncoming drivers. The adaptive high beam system has the potential for additional safety options, too. There are Mercedes that can project symbols of bad weather on the road ahead of you, and some manufacturers are tinkering with headlights that can “swivel up to highlight pedestrians entering the road and more.”
Why didn’t we have adaptive high beam systems already?
For years, adaptive high beam systems have been barred because of outdated language from the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 108, which basically states that manufacturers were required to build cars with a dedicated low beam and dedicated high beam.
The new provision in the infrastructure bill permits car manufacturers “to allow for the use on vehicles of adaptive driving beam headlight systems.” The provision also permits car manufacturers to include the adaptive high beam system in every vehicle for two years.
Additional requirements from the infrastructure bill
In addition to allowing adaptive high beam systems to be legal, the new provision set in the infrastructure bill also requires mandatory headlight performance. Although no specific standard has been set yet, experts believe the headlight testing will resemble the headlight testing procedure of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
The IIHS headlight test is a procedure where the organization’s engineers measure the reach of a vehicle’s headlights while the vehicle travels straight and on curves. The sensors on the tested track measure how far from the vehicle the light can extend. The test measures for low beams and high beams.
It will take at least two years for adaptive high beam systems to be installed in every vehicle; making the systems legal for use is the right step toward improving driver safety and visibility.
At Martin & Helms, we are excited to see manufacturers working towards making safer cars with better features – but we also know that those safety features may not be enough to prevent a wreck. Our Huntsville car accident attorneys are here to fight for your right to recover compensation. We invite you to call us at 256-539-1990, or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation at our Huntsville or Decatur office to discuss your case. We also serve injured clients in Madison, Athens, and throughout North Alabama.
Choosing the right personal injury attorney is an important step in building a better future. You deserve a lawyer who works one-on-one with you, and who can develop a plan for you to move forward. When you choose Martin & Helms, you get Clay Martin and Tara Helms: experienced, compassionate counselors who put your best interests first. We invite you to read more about us.