Most drivers in the U.S. probably don’t think much about their headlights. The most dangerous time to drive or to be a pedestrian is at night. The reason nighttime is less safe for drivers and pedestrians is that it is hard to see pedestrians on the side of the road or other obstacles in the street. Many modern cars, including Ford vehicles – with its Auto High-Beam tech that is part of the Ford Co-Pilot 360 safety suite – can automatically turn the headlights on high beam when no other cars are present.
Some safety organizations and automakers think that this automatic high-beam tech isn’t enough and are calling for changes to federal headlight standards to allow tech used in other countries, called adaptive driving beam (ADB) headlights, to be used in the States. With the Ford Auto High-Beam system, the headlights are on bright only when another vehicle isn’t detected, the benefit of the extra light is lost when another vehicle is detected.
With ADB headlights the high beams are always on, so the driver has more light on the road to help avoid accidents at all times. When another vehicle is detected, the ADB headlights can shade the area that would otherwise blind the oncoming driver while allowing the driver to continue to benefit from the extra light. It’s not clear how exactly ADB headlights can shade portions to prevent blinding oncoming drivers.
Another challenge for bringing headlight standards in the U.S. on par with those in other countries has to do with testing. All headlight standards testing is done in a lab in the States rather than in real-world conditions. Automakers are behind bringing ADB headlights to the U.S. and Toyota was the first manufacturer to petition the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to amend standards to allow automakers the option of fitting cars with ADB headlights. New headlight testing standards and vehicles with ADB headlights are years away.