United States bans the matrix-beam headlights found on Audi A8

Article by Christian Andrei, on March 22, 2013

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Audi displayed an A8 sedan with headlights that see around corners and light up more space without blinding approaching motorists. It won’t be long before European customers can buy this model with this feature. American fans would be dismayed to know that these headlights can’t be used in the U.S. because a 45-year-old regulation disallows their use on U.S. roads.

When interviewed, Stephan Berlitz, Audi's head of lighting innovations, said that in the last 10-15 years, the lighting technology has changed radically. He said that this regulation from 1968 makes it hard to do all these innovations. Audi is one of the automakers and lighting makers that are working to get this rule changed.

With the self-adjusting Audi lights, there could be no difference between low- and high-beam settings. Representatives from around the industry are getting ready to meet with U.S. regulators as a move forward to revising this standard. Throughout many years, this headlight rule has received updates. It’s actually one of the oldest rule in U.S. car safety; it’s even older than the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which was created in 1970. Since then, headlight technology has progressed. From sealed beams, halogen arrived. This was then followed by xenon and later to LEDS or light-emitting diodes.

NHTSA officials are open to new technology but they’re not entirely sure that LED lights enhance safety. In the agency’s report that came out last month, it said that there were more rear-end collisions in majority of models that made the switch from incandescent lamps to LED brake lighting. The Matrix-beam headlights from Audi will first be offered as optional on the A8, which has a starting price of 70,000 euros in Germany.

Brad Stertz, a U.S.-based Audi spokesman, said that it’s expected that the lights will be offered in non-U.S. locations by 2014. These headlights mark the first use of multiple LEDs to permit drivers to basically have their high beams on all the time. Due to the use of cameras and sensors, the LEDs are directed to dim or to turn off depending on what’s in front of them. This means that visibility is improved due to the changing series of lights and shadows.

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