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Highway Safety Regulators Approve 'Adaptive Headlights' That Won't Blind Oncoming Drivers

The responsive system shuts off certain clusters of LEDs to shine less light on other cars.

Dan Avery Former Writer
Dan was a writer on CNET's How-To and Thought Leadership teams. His byline has appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, NBC News, Architectural Digest and elsewhere. He is a crossword junkie and is interested in the intersection of tech and marginalized communities.
Expertise Personal finance, government and policy, consumer affairs
Dan Avery
2 min read
Audi's Digital Matrix LED adaptive headlights

Audi's Digital Matrix LED adaptive headlights selectively dim certain parts of the road ahead to avoid blinding other drivers while illuminating objects and animals in the road.

Audi

The US Department of Transportation has given automakers the green light to install adaptive headlights that shine more light on unoccupied areas, helping protect other motorists from the glare of your beams.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Tuesday issued a final rule approving adaptive driving beam headlight systems, which are already in use in Europe. 

ADB headlights use automatic beam-switching technology to shut off certain clusters of LEDs while you're driving, shining less light on occupied areas of the road and more light on unoccupied areas.  

Most Audis, including the e-tron Sportback electric vehicle, already have the high-tech beams as an option but, until now, they could not be used in the US.

headlights driver

Adaptive headlights shine less light on other cars, helping fellow motorists from being blinded by the glare of your beams.

Jecapix

Adaptive headlights were made street legal in November when President Biden signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, which gave Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg until 2024 to approve them.  

The final rule satisfies that requirement more than a year and a half ahead of schedule. It will go into effect when it's published in the Federal Register in the coming days.

In addition to protecting other drivers' vision, the NHTSA says, the technology keeps pedestrians and bicyclists safer, and better illuminates animals and objects in the road, helping to prevent crashes.

"NHTSA prioritizes the safety of everyone on our nation's roads, whether they are inside or outside a vehicle. New technologies can help advance that mission," NHTSA deputy administrator Steven Cliff said in a statement.
The agency is approving the ADB headlights, Cliff added, "to help improve safety and protect vulnerable road users."

Related: Good headlights can reduce the likelihood of a nighttime car crash by up to 20%