If you want a good example of just how slow regulatory agencies sometimes move, the standardization of laser headlights is one of them.
It’s hard to believe but five years ago Toyota had the foresight to slide a petition under the door at the NHTSA to get the ball rolling on discussion and standardization of laser headlights, a new technology for lighting that Europe is already benefiting from. As per our friends over at Automotive News earlier today (Oct. 12, 2018) NHTSA is finally allowing this petition to move forward and even has a couple of links for public commentary, which I will be submitting some remarks for posterity’s sake. This shouldn’t be confused with the NHTSA actually allowing laser headlights in cars but is literally just the start of a multi-year process.
Wired has done a great job spelling out the WHY this took so long to start. The NHTSA historically takes long when it comes to regulatory changes when it comes to lighting. It’s only been a handful of years that HID’s are standard on a lot of newer cars with some cars like the new Honda Civic still using Halogen bulbs as standard.
Toyota, oftentimes seen as blase and mayonnaise when it comes to exciting innovation in years past has always been innovative when it comes to lighting. There best selling car in the United States, the 2018 Toyota Corolla, offers LED headlights as standard, something even newer, more expensive cars don’t have.
What they’re calling “Adaptive driving beams” even the NHTSA admits to some degree that there are some life saving benefits to be had.
ADB has the potential to reduce the risk of crashes by increasing visibility without increasing glare. In particular, it offers potentially significant safety benefits in avoiding collisions with pedestrians, cyclists, animals, and roadside.
Laser headlights are more efficient than LED headlights and are far more efficient than halogen headlights. With processors working in conjunction with cameras/radars/etc. adaptive driving beams can also do a better job at illuminating certain objects, something regular halogens can’t do.
Laser headlights are also super expensive at the moment and marginally better than halogens at best.
So, while we want cool laser headlights, the costs outweigh the benefits.
Hopefully, this discussions started by the NHTSA will delve deeper into just how much better laser headlights are.