AAA: High-tech headlights could save lives if regulators allow them in US

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — When you’re driving at night, you may not be able to see things that are right in front of you, especially if you’re using your low beams.

Now, AAA is calling on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to allow adaptive driving beam (ADB) headlights on roads nationwide, a technology that is already available in Europe.

“When we’re driving at speeds of 40 mph or greater, we’re out-driving our own visibility while behind the wheel,” AAA’s Diana Imondi explained.

ADB headlights are controlled by sensors, Imondi said.

“We know that visibility can be vastly improved with these,” Imondi said. “We know that 86% more light will be out on our roadways.”

“It’s basically like driving with the high beams on all the time, but then when the vehicle’s computer system senses an approaching vehicle or pedestrian it will automatically dim lights in certain areas to avoid glare,” she added.

NHTSA received 203 public comments after it issued a proposed rule change in October to allow ADB systems.

“This is really a life-saving adaptive vehicle technology,” Imondi said.

Several automakers including Toyota, Ford and Mercedes are in favor of changes and want the ability to add ADB systems to vehicles in the United States.

A handful of consumers expressed concerns about the technology and told NHTSA drivers should be in control of their headlights and a truck manufacturing group said the technology could be a costly burden.

“They are expensive lighting systems,” Imondi said. “We know that it’s probably a couple of thousand dollars difference in sticker prices for consumers.”

It’s not clear when NHTSA will make a decision.

Susan Campbell (scampbell@wpri.com) is the Call 12 for Action and Target 12 consumer investigator for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.

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