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Research has found that driving after the sun has set puts you at a 50% increased risk of getting into an accident. In addition to the related tiredness of driving at this time of day, accidents and deaths that occur in the hours of darkness are attributed to drivers’ misuse of their high beams.
In fact, according to the Department of Transportation most drivers will make errors in using their high beams, around 85%. The impact is that oncoming drivers are blinded by the bright light, leaving their vision temporarily impaired, diminishing their ability to see the road ahead. The issue is that low beams often do not provide sufficient illumination of the road, but the use of high beams increases the risk of dazzling oncoming drivers. There is technology is currently available in the US to address this problem, but it has proven to be less than sufficient at solving the issue. Auto dimmers have been built to respond automatically to oncoming cars, switching the high beam off when it detects drivers in the road ahead. However, users complain that the system isn’t intuitive enough, and doesn’t respond with appropriate quickness, leaving the automotive industry in need of an effective method to keep drivers safe at night.
Importance of Smart Headlights
An intelligent solution to this problem has been developed and is already on the roads in Europe and Canada, however, the technology is not currently legal in the US. Smart headlights, also known as adaptive driving beam (ADB) have been developed to provide the same illumination as is provided by the traditional high beam, but with technology incorporated to prevent the lights from getting into the eyes of oncoming drivers. The revolutionary technology is being built into new cars to keep drivers safe at night by illuminating more of the road and removing the risk of blinding oncoming drivers.
Working of Smart Headlights
The ingenious lights work by detecting oncoming vehicles and shutting off parts of the lamp to shade the drivers from the beam. The lights do this either by using physical shutters or by shutting off individual LEDs to create the same impact. It’s not only drivers that the lights can detect, they have also been programmed to improve driver vision in snowy or rainy conditions by tracking individual raindrops or snowflakes. Once tracked, the light can block off the part of the light beam shining on them, reducing the light reflecting off the rain or snow back into the driver's eyes. Unlike auto dimmers, ADB reaction time has been proven to be quick enough, responding within 1 and 2.5 milliseconds. The result of ADB technology is that for the driver, the road is illuminated up to 86% better than using a traditional low beam, but for the oncoming driver the amount of glare is not augmented, it remains as low as it would be if a traditional low beam were coming towards it.
The only barrier to adopting this potentially life-saving piece of technology is that the NHTSA are required to amend the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FVMSS) to make them legal. It is hoped that progress will be made in the coming months following their success internationally. Some carmakers are already ahead of the game, anticipating this change in safety standards by having built the technology already into US vehicles. Once legal, the technology will be switched one and drivers will be able to access their ABD lights through running a software update, as is the case with new Audi models. After safety standards are updated, we can expect widespread adoption of this technology, and hopefully a reduction in nighttime road accidents.
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