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Intelligent LED headlights are banned in the US

Intelligent LED headlights are banned in the US

Several European car makers have made major advances around their headlights using LED, but will consumers in the US ever get a chance to benefit from this awesome new technology? One can only wait and see for now. Audi has asked for a clarification of the federal regulation that controls headlights, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 108. This rule seems to say that dynamic headlight activity is not allowed which makes Audi, Opel and Mercedes new headlight systems illegal in the good old USA.

Audi’s Matrix Beam Lights may be too smart for their own good. LED headlights use small cameras to detect other cars and adjust their brightness. This is not allowed under US law.

These new dynamic LED headlight systems are just that: dynamic. They are made up of sizable arrays of LED diodes that can be controlled by the car’s computer systems in a much more precise way than has been possible in the past. This makes driving conditions safer for both you and the drivers in oncoming traffic, who no longer have to worry about being blinded by the high beams you forgot to turn off. Did I mention that these systems are so confident in their abilities that some have removed the high beam switch entirely?

Mercedes was the first to announce their dynamic LED headlights. They received an honorable mention at the Red Dot Design of the Year awards 2011 for their project. The Mercedes-Benz CLS all-LED headlamps were commended for their attractive looks but also for their innovative features. This high-performance lamp was the first of its kind to be equipped with adaptive lighting functions. The intelligent system detects driving situation and weather conditions and automatically selects the best combination of seven lighting configurations, which use 71 LED diodes to create the safest and best lighting for the current trip.

Audi features what they call Matrix Beam Lighting. Their lights have only around 64 diodes but boast of features that sound straight out of science fiction. These lights by Audi claim to be able to detect nearby cars and pedestrians and automatically dim themselves. Combined with the headlamp-leveling feature, which can adjust the angle of the lights based on braking, acceleration or road conditions, these lights really shine. But Audi didn’t stop there. Their dynamic LED headlights can also automatically create light patterns uniquely suited for city, country and highway driving situations, as well as adverse weather conditions, while fog and heavy rain settings can automatically adjust light spectrum to maximize visibility.

The Opel light matrix LED headlights make use of a front view camera and offer extensive control of light to suit just about any driving situation. First, the normal operating mode for these lights is what would usually be considered high beams. The lights are then dimmed and reconfigured based on the specific driving situation. The matrix is divided into four sections that can be switched on or off as needed to change brightness and even the shape of the light beam produced. There are a possible sixteen different combinations of these sections and 256 brightness levels possible with this system, all of which can change so as to be nearly imperceptible to the driver’s eye.

While Opel’s light matrix will not be available on cars anywhere for several years, both Mercedes and Audi have cars in production with these new high tech headlamp assemblies all over Europe and the world. So why can’t we enjoy them here in America? It seems that many years ago a law was written that stated that headlights should not control themselves. Some believe that this law was created to save innocent drivers’ eyes from misbehaving high beam switches; others are baffled and don’t know why this law was laid down, but they do know that the law wasn’t talking about systems like these: they didn’t exist then.

Audi has stepped up and asked the government to interpret what the law really means. They are evaluating it and will have an answer for us soon. Maybe some day in the near future we will be able to safely drive down the street and clearly see the deer waiting to jump out and wreck our cars.  Maybe some day we will no longer be bothered by the annoying and painful headlights of oncoming traffic. Or maybe they will decide otherwise? Until that day comes all we can do is wait and watch for that light in the dark to shine and light the way to safer roadways.

–Nancy Stafford


3 Responses to Intelligent LED headlights are banned in the US

  1. Would be nice if I did not have BRIGHT lights in my eyes while passing on coming traffic making driving near impossible in the city

  2. Opel’s Matrix LED lighting system is more modern then Audi Matrix Beam Lighting.

    Opel’s Matrix LED system consists of eight lenses, four for each beacon, and each only with four LED sources that control the direction and intensity of the beam headlights. Emitted light is very white and is only limited by the side lighting for cars approaching in the opposite direction, keeping the depth of enlightenment. The front camera monitors traffic and electronic management is responsible for turning down the lights.

    Perhaps Opel Matrix LED lighting system comes this year with Opel Insignia facelift.

    • It doesn’t mean advanced just because of the fewer LEDs they use. That’s just pricy for the customer. As we know Audi’s headlights look the best in styling and styling costs for those who want it. Opel is simply a differnt type of car level, more the VW level than Audi or Bentley etc. They want to speak to a differnt kind of customer, just like Blackberry and Apple.

      As far as I know, a research in the US showed people there don’t like the changing of the light so much, it seems to irritate them when driving or for what ever reason. I haven’t read the results of the study, just heard about it from a conference I went.
      But then the US automotive industry is behind the LED technology compared to the European automotive industry anyway. So maybe when they reached that level they will decide differently. Until then the rich senators and donating copanies/organizations CEOs will have to drive with the low-tech headlight and probably non-European car brands (except there is a special headlight design according to US regulations) :-)

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