Are Car Headlights Getting Too Bright?

January 24, 2019

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Driving at night has become an eyesore with headlights.  With the advancement of lighting technology it would appear to anyone on the road at night that headlights are getting brighter, which is good for the driver but bad for vehicles caught in the glare that is blinding. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says they've received thousands of consumer complaints that vehicle headlights are too bright.  But is that true? Believe it or not, no. Headlights are governed by an overwhelming slew of regulations known as FMVSS 108 that dictate how bright they can be, at a maximum and minimum. The issue with many of these newer sources of car lights, such as high-intensity discharge bulbs and LEDs that skew more towards the white and even slightly blue range, is how the light is diffused. Older halogen bulbs have a softer discharge pattern compared to the harder lines of newer light technology that appears to be more glaring. The bigger problem is how headlight lamps are installed on vehicles. While there are laws governing brightness and glare, there is little oversight into installation process. Some manufacturers unintentionally install the headlamp incorrectly causing the light to be out of alignment and allows too much glare to oncoming traffic.  Watchdog groups have caused carmakers to pay more attention to the headlamp installation process and to alter headlamps to diffuse the light better for oncoming traffic. Glare is also a problem for vehicles that have undergone a lift.  With the vehicle sitting higher off the ground, the headlamp is not aligned properly and causes blinding glare to other drivers, unless it is adjusted during the lifting process. There is a solution on the horizon called adaptive driving beam. The technology in use throughout Europe uses sensors at the front of the vehicle to detect where other vehicles are, and dynamically dim part of an array of LEDs, or shutter parts of the headlights, to avoid glaring those vehicles. The result is that other drivers won’t be blinded, but the road will be brighter. The NHTSA submitted a notice of proposed rulemaking late last year that would allow for adaptive driving beam systems on U.S. roads, hopefully in the near future.

SOURCE: Popular Science

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