How Can Smart Headlights Prevent Accidents?

Posted on
smart headlights

Although the design of automotive headlights has evolved over the years along with changing car designs, their functionality has not. Basically, drivers choose from low beams or high beams. Some vehicles’ technology makes this change automatically, but most do not. To put it another way, the headlights your grandfather used 50 years ago have the same functionality as the headlights on your vehicles today. 

However, smart headlights, also known as adaptive headlights or adaptive driving beam headlights (ADB), have been in development for many years but only recently were approved for use in the United States. 

In November 2021, President Biden’s signature on an infrastructure bill finally opened the door for the latest headlight technologies to become a reality here. Many other countries have already begun adapting ADB and other technologies. U.S. consumers should be able to benefit from the smart headlights by at least 2024, but maybe sooner. One major benefit would be a reduction in the number of nighttime car accidents.

What Are Smart Headlights?

ADB headlights go by different names depending on which car brand is touting their technology. For example, Audi’s Digital Matrix LED headlights are a well-known brand. For this discussion, we will use the term smart headlights to mean any type of ADB advanced headlight technology. 

Smart headlights illuminate the road ahead with a constant high beam. A driver does not need to change between this beam and lower brightness. ADB systems use sensors and unique designs that change the light’s shape, brightness, and direction. 

For example, if you are driving on a dark road at night and a car approaches from the opposite direction, the headlights will sense this and automatically shut down the cluster of lights that would blind the other driver. At the same time, the headlights would keep your lane illuminated with as much light as possible. This technology works for multiple vehicles and lanes as well. 

There are other advantages. Smart headlights also can project patterns onto the road to help drivers see when a lane ends. Some car manufacturers are even testing ways to cast a symbol on the road to let drivers know of upcoming hazards, such as ice or snow. The possibilities are endless for headlight technology that makes driving safer. 

What Are the Benefits of Smart Headlights?

Smart headlights have a variety of benefits to a driver and the motorists around them. Although automatic high-beam headlight systems already exist in some U.S. cars, smart headlights provide many more benefits, as follows. 

More visibility, less distraction. Here is an example. If you are driving in an area with streetlights, current headlight technology can become confused and leave the bright beams on when they should be off. In some cases, the car ends up switching between low and high beams rapidly, which is unsafe and impedes visibility. 

On the other hand, smart headlights can read the road and surrounding areas, applying light only where it is needed. Their brightness and shape change in response to the conditions they sense. Their sensors and detection systems eliminate the confusion between streetlights and oncoming headlights to maintain the correct amount of light and brightness for the actual driving conditions. 

In addition, smart headlights use electronic sensors to capture information about vehicle speed, steering, and elevation. This allows the vehicle to adapt the headlights to various driving activities. Many smart headlight systems also adjust the angle of the light beam up or down based on whether the car is tilted forward or back. Additionally, the light rays can bend to the right as a driver turns the steering wheel to the right, focusing illumination around a curve.

Safer in adverse weather. Fog, rain, and snow while driving at night can be frustrating. The constant shifting between low and high beams to help improve your visibility is both annoying and useless. Many times, neither fits the situation just right. 

Smart headlights will not provide perfect visibility in bad weather, but they can illuminate the road ahead with much more accuracy and less reflection from heavy fog, for example. 

The smart headlight system will direct the light lower and to the side of the road for better visibility and less glare than regular headlights. Some systems even incorporate fog lights into the technology. 

Are not blinding. Everyone has come upon an approaching car with their high beams on, practically blinding you from seeing the road. This is particularly true as the headlights on new cars keep getting brighter for both low and high beams. 

Smart headlights will keep the blinding light off approaching drivers and pedestrians. If there is an oncoming vehicle, the beam is partially blocked or turned off to avoid blinding the other driver. At the same time, the road remains brightly illuminated, improving other drivers’ visibility without compromising yours. 

Reduce accidents. Any technology designed to help drivers navigate the roads more safely is sure to also reduce accidents. It will be interesting to see the research once the headlights become a staple in American cars. 

According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports, approximately 30 percent of all car accidents occur at night in the United States. Smart headlight technology was invented to make nighttime driving or driving anywhere lights are required safer. 

Future Use of Smart Headlights

ADB technology is moving quickly, and now that the United States is on board, every automaker will most likely include smart headlights in their new models. Some may offer it as a premium feature at first. 

Audi and other manufacturers have continued to develop and test their smart headlight technology, including:

  • Using smart headlights to augment the visual features of the road, such as lane and shoulder markings. 
  • Allowing smart headlights to better illuminate the road in response to the driver’s actions. 
  • Audi has tested a scenario in which headlights dim in the center of the lane but brighten on the sides of the road when approaching a large truck. This essentially wraps light around the larger vehicle ahead, making it easier to pass them in the other lane. 
  • Automakers are also developing smart headlights to work in tandem with the car’s function, such as navigation, to highlight road signs and directions. 
  • Other systems being tested are vehicle and object detection and using lighting to send traffic-safety information to other drivers.
  • For example, the lights could communicate warnings to other cars about upcoming accidents or bad road conditions. 
  • Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute have invented a smart headlight system that improves visibility while driving in precipitation at night. It constantly redirects headlights to shine between particles of precipitation. Researchers say it can make heavy downpours appear like drizzle. 
  • The system uses a camera to track the motion of raindrops and snowflakes and then applies a computer algorithm to predict where those particles will be a few milliseconds later. The light projection system then deactivates light beams that would otherwise illuminate the particles in their predicted positions.

Many U.S. organizations, such as AAA and Consumer Reports, fully support ADB smart headlight technology. Because it has been legal in Canada and Europe for many years, it is hoped that the United States will adopt the technology quickly. It can serve as the beginning of efforts to improve nighttime driving safety. 

Baltimore Car Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Help Clients Recover from Their Accidents 

Even with advances in technology, car accidents still occur. If you have been injured in an accident, reach out to the Baltimore car accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. Our experienced legal team will investigate the cause of the accident and fight to obtain full and fair compensation for your injuries. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent clients throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.