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Coming soon: Trucks, SUVs with smarter headlight technology


A recent final ruling from U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will be a game changer when it comes to headlight technology. The ruling (in boring government language) deals with Adaptive Driving Beam headlight systems, or ADB.

This technology has existed in Europe for a while but was not legally cleared for U.S. vehicles until now. So, this ruling is actually an amendment to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS or Standard) No. 108, “Lamps, reflective devices, and associated equipment,” which enables automakers in the states to allow this technology as well as establish performance requirements to ensure they operate safely.

Difference between ADB and adaptive headlights

I know what you’re saying to yourself: My car or truck already has adaptive headlights, and yes that’s true. But ADB is a more advanced version of adaptive headlights. As the NHTSA website points out:  “Adaptive driving beam headlight systems, or ADB, use automatic headlight beam switching technology to shine less light on occupied areas of the road and more light on unoccupied areas. The adaptive beam is particularly useful for distance illumination of pedestrians, animals, and objects without reducing the visibility of drivers in other vehicles.”

For example, if a truck (which has a higher posture) is equipped with ADB it will light the area off to the right (think curb or woods) brighter and the dim the area on the left (to not blind oncoming traffic).

ADB technology is like smart headlights. Using cameras and radar, the headlights adjust the brightness in areas that are darker and dims the lights in areas that may have vehicles approaching. This differs from adaptive headlights, which adjusts the brightness in front as a whole, rather than specific areas. Current adaptive headlight technology also allows the headlights to “bend” with he road — or rather move in the same direction as the steering wheel. But ADB would be next level.

“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,” said Dr. Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s Deputy Administrator. “NHTSA is issuing this final rule to help improve safety and protect vulnerable road users.”

Vehicles with headlight technology

The Cadillac XT6 has ADB technology installed on vehicles for sale in Europe, but it gets disabled for U.S. vehicles because it was previously not legal. With this ruling, the 2023 Cadillac XT6 could be one of the first vehicles to include ADB.

Tesla also wanted this feature on its much-delayed Cybertruck. It was one of the many features holding this truck up because it wasn’t going to clear NHTSA safety. So, surely Elon Musk is happy about the NHTSA ruling.

Ford Europe developed Glare-Free Highbeam back in 2016, and this technology was included on many of Ford’s overseas vehicles where this technology was already legal. With the NHTSA ruling, look for Ford to send to some of its headlight technology stateside, including Glare-Free Highbeam and Camera-Based Advanced Front Lighting.

“Camera-Based Advanced Front Lighting can help make it easier for the driver to travel at night in unfamiliar surroundings, and to more easily see unexpected hazards. At roundabouts, for example, our system helps the driver to clearly see the exits – and check if cyclists and pedestrians are crossing the road,” said Michael Koherr, research engineer, Lighting Systems, Ford of Europe. “Spot Lighting makes potential hazards in the road ahead more easily visible to the driver – whether that is a pedestrian, a cyclist, or even a large animal.”

It is unknown what future vehicles will get ADB or similar technology, but you can bet that many vehicles in 2023 and beyond model year will have advanced headlight technology.

The bottom line on headlight technology

This was a no brainer for NHTSA to approve. The technology has already existed and does nothing but make the roads safer. The days of blinding someone with your brights should soon be over thanks to advancements in headlight technology. We’ll be curious to see what the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety does with this news. This independent, non-government agency makes headlight safety a part of its Top Safety Pick awards criteria, and in light of this final rule, we can see this area getting even more stringent in up coming years. That’s a good thing for consumers.

Editor’s note: The image on this page is courtesy of Ford Motor Co.

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Jimmy Dinsmore

Jimmy is News Editor for PickupTruckTalk with an expertise in new vehicles. He is also a Ford Mustang historian having authored the book Mustang by Design (available on Amazon). His second book, about the history of Ford's F-Series truck comes out next year.

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  1. Rob April 8, 2022

    Hi there, I was wondering if you have heard how to activate the 2022 Cadillac XT6 ADB with the premium headlights. I was told before buying mine that if I order the premium headlights and when NHTSA approves ADB, it should be a matter of reprogramming the headlights. Now when I ask a couple different dealers, they have no idea.

    1. Tim Esterdahl April 8, 2022

      Sorry, no idea.


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