The benefits of adaptive headlights are well-known throughout the world, save for the United States where such lights are illegal. That is, they were illegal, but not anymore. Last November, the sprawling $1 billion infrastructure bill for the US was signed into law, and it contained a measure to tweak the outdated rule keeping adaptive headlights off US roads. However, a new rule needed to replace it before going official. And it's now official.
If you really want to read the new rule, you can check out all 327 pages of it at the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration's website. For our purposes, we'll just explain why it was an issue in the first place. In 1967, a rule was established in federal motor vehicle safety standards that forbid both high-beam lights and low-beam lights from functioning at the same time. Since the whole point of adaptive headlights is to have simultaneous functionality to benefit drivers and other motorists, the old rule was a frustrating technicality that kept the new lighting tech out of the US market.
Gallery: Mercedes-Maybach Digital Light
For those unfamiliar, adaptive headlights basically feature banks of computer-controlled LEDs in headlight housings that can be aimed in very specific locations. As such, adaptive lights can illuminate the distant road in front of the driver similar to high beams, while also aiming the light away from oncoming traffic. More advanced systems can even focus light to create illuminated symbols on the road in front of the car, such as arrows or other navigation prompts.
Many luxury automakers such as Mercedes-Benz and Audi have used adaptive headlights for years. Now that the legal path in the US is clear, when will American buyers be able to use the new tech? Motor1.com reached out to several automakers for a comment on the new rule, though the trick lights probably won't appear overnight. Audi spokesperson Jacob Brown offered this insight into the near future.
"As a leader in lighting technology, Audi of America is excited about the amendment to FMVSS 108 that will bring advanced driving beam headlights to US customers. We're actively evaluating the ruling to determine next steps."