Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


IT’S SORTA DÉJÀ VU all over again. In the late 1970s, the U.S. caught up with the best of European automotive headlighting. And, come 2023, we’re likely to do so again, thanks to an infrastructure law passed last year.

Eric A. Taub gives details about Adaptive Driving Beam headlights in The New York Times, January 13, 2022.  Here are tidbits on nighttime driving, what it used to be, what it is today, and what it’ll be before long.

Image from The New York Times, January 13, 2022

1939-1983. Automotive sealed beams had been the U.S. standard since 1939. They delivered blobs of light, but weren’t as efficient nor as precise in their illumination as headlights evolving in Europe. In 1983, the U.S. finally caught up with composite headlights that had replaceable bulbs of increasingly higher efficiency and better optics through enhanced lens assemblies. 

Tungsten to Tungsten/Halogen to HID to LED. A traditional sealed beam’s heated tungsten filament deposited soot on the bulb glass that hastened burn out. Enclosing tungsten in a halogen atmosphere mitigated this soot deposition, though halogen technology still depended upon relatively inefficient incandescence. 

H.I.D. or high-intensity discharge illumination replaced a glowing filament with an electrical arc. H.I.D.s are more efficient that incandescent illumination, though some say the bluish illumination drives old people wacky.

Draw your own conclusion as to who’s wacky.

With the latest LED headlights, a multiplicity of light-emitting diodes are arranged in a matrix that efficiently casts illumination where and when desired. For example, low- to high-beam transition is accomplished in milliseconds. 

A.D.B. enhancements, as described in Eric A. Taub’s NYT article are their next level of development. Taub observes, “With A.D.B. lighting, a vehicle’s headlights are essentially always on high beam, while cameras and software instruct them to constantly reshape the beam to avoid blinding oncoming drivers or shining in the rearview mirrors of those close ahead.”

Bad News/Good News. “The bad news,” Taub says, “is that while widely used in Europe and Asia for over a decade, these smart headlights are illegal in the United States. The good news is that after years of unsuccessful attempts to allow the technology, A.D.B. lights will soon be on American cars and trucks, thanks to a section in the recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that mandates their use.”

Taub explains, “According to the infrastructure act, adaptive beam headlights must be approved for U.S. use within two years. And they will be allowed to meet the standard developed by the Society of Automotive Engineers, which is very similar to the systems already in use in Europe.”

Catching Up. “Once you drive a vehicle with adaptive beams, you’ll see how great it is,” said Bill Gouse, director of federal program management for SAE International…. This is our chance to stop lagging behind the standards used around the world.”

The E-tron features Audi’s Digital Matrix Headlighting System.

A Nighttime World View. Taub describes, “The number of beam patterns offered by A.D.B. systems differs, based on each carmaker’s technology. General Motors autos in China equipped with A.D.B. can create 34 beam patterns, while digital systems from Audi and Mercedes-Benz use millions of micromirrors to create a virtually infinite number of shapes.”

Here, But Currently Deactivated. Taub says, “Audi’s digital matrix headlights, currently available (but deactivated) on the U.S. version of its E-tron, can also create a bright light ‘carpet’ on a highway, illuminating the lane ahead, widening to show the way when the car is changing lanes, then shrinking back once the lane change is complete.”

A.D.B. adapts to a lane chance. Above, following a car with low beam. Below, changing lane with increased illumination. Images by Stella Kalinina from The New York Times, January 13, 2022.

Hacks Available. Taub writes, “Some owners who could not wait for legalization say they have figured out how to activate their matrix headlights, and at least one aftermarket service dealer in Southern California will turn them on for $900.” 

Hmm.  I’m usually down on hackers, however…. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2022 


  1. Juvenal Jorge
    January 25, 2022

    Too white headlights (HID? I don’t know) are terrible for the oncoming traffic. Kind of egotistic headlight. Ford Heavy Duty pick-ups with 4 headlights piled up are horrible to other drivers, Chevrolet Equinox the same, some Teslas, in fact a lot of models have egotistic headlights. I cannot understand how such dangerous devices can be approved by Federal regulations. Other point are turning lights on red instead of amber like European regulations. Much more unsafe when brake lights and turning lights are of the same color, as it requires a time to have the message understood by the driver behind. There are many things wrong on automotive lighting in US.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: