After considerable deliberation from both sides of the congressional aisle, President Biden signed the expansive $1 trillion infrastructure bill into law. With bipartisan support, the bill tackles everything from road and bridge repair to upgrades for ports, rail systems, and electric vehicle expansion. It also addresses a technicality in a 54-year-old rule that prevented automakers from using adaptive headlights in the US.

That's a big deal, because the tech has the potential to be extremely useful while also creating safer driving conditions after dark. In short, adaptive headlights utilize a bevy of small LED lights with tiny mirrors and computer control to specifically aim light in various directions. And we mean very specific, as in highlighting individual lanes and even projecting words or symbols onto the road. This can help drivers navigate roads at night, but adaptive headlights can also selectively dim for oncoming traffic, basically creating a shadow so the other driver isn't blinded while keeping the light on full bright everywhere else.

2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Exterior
Audi Digital Matrix Headlights

Ironically, the clever dual functionality of adaptive headlights is what made them illegal in the United States. High-beam and low-beam light settings have been around forever, but a safety standard established in 1967 made it illegal for the settings to function simultaneously. For the time it certainly made sense, but that was long before the trickery of computer-controlled LEDs. At least now the rule is modernized for the growing crop of vehicles using this tech.

It's still not entirely a done deal, however. The law provides a definition of adaptive headlights, but it states a final ruling on the amendment to the original standard should take place "not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of this Act." With adaptive lights the primary domain for high-end luxury vehicles such as the Mercedes S-Class and Audi e-Tron, that offers a bit more time for the tech to filter down the chain for more mainstream use.

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