What are Adaptive Headlights?

The United States has received a very welcome update to the FMVSS 108 headlight standard – the official allowance of adaptive beam headlights for US autos.

Adaptive beam headlights, or A.D.B. headlights (adaptive driving beam), have been allowed in virtually every country in the world up to this point, and they offer major benefits to drivers. Basically, the system allows the driver to use the full “high beam” setting at all times and a computer, controlled by sensors, adjusts the lighting to meet the conditions.

Adaptive headlights (Adaptive Driving Beams), also known as dynamic or swiveling headlights, are a type of automotive lighting system that can adjust the direction and intensity of the light beam based on the vehicle's speed, steering angle, and other factors; such as automatically lowering their brightness when oncoming traffic is detected, allowing additional lighting to show pedestrians, bicyclists or wildlife on the edges of the road, and even adjusting for climatic conditions such as rain, fog and snow.. The purpose of adaptive headlights is to improve visibility and safety while driving, particularly in challenging or low-light conditions. Adaptive headlights effectively remove the compromise between glare and illumination and the need for the operator to manually switch between upper and lower beams.

There are several types of adaptive headlights, but the most common ones use motorized swiveling lenses or light sources to direct the beam in the direction of the vehicle's turn. This allows the driver to see further ahead around corners and curves, and helps to avoid accidents caused by insufficient visibility. Some adaptive headlights also use sensors to detect oncoming traffic and adjust the beam to avoid blinding other drivers.

Benefits of Adaptive Headlight Testing

There are several benefits of Adaptive Headlight Testing, including:

  1. Safety: Adaptive headlights can significantly improve driver visibility and reduce the risk of accidents, particularly in low-light or challenging driving conditions. Testing ensures that these systems are functioning properly and meeting safety standards, which can help prevent accidents and save lives.
  2. Compliance: Automotive manufacturers must comply with various safety regulations and standards, including those related to adaptive headlights. Testing ensures that the headlights meet these requirements and that the manufacturer is in compliance with relevant laws and regulations.
  3. Performance: Testing helps to ensure that the adaptive headlights are performing optimally and meeting the design specifications. This can help to identify any issues or defects that may affect the performance of the headlights and provide feedback to manufacturers on how to improve their products.
  4. Consumer satisfaction: Adaptive headlights are a desirable feature for many drivers and can increase the value of a vehicle. Testing helps to ensure that the headlights meet consumer expectations and that they function as advertised, which can help improve customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.
  5. Innovation: Testing can also drive innovation in adaptive headlight technology, by identifying areas for improvement and helping manufacturers to develop new and better systems. This can lead to more advanced and effective adaptive headlights in the future, further improving driver safety and comfort.

Adapting Test Strategies for Adaptive Beam Headlights
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Intertek's Adaptive Headlight Testing Solutions

The final rule, approved in February 2022, considered industry and individual comments made regarding the NPRM from October 2018 into a set of laboratory and dynamic test requirements. Much of the final rule was based on the test procedures included in SAE J3069 – the Society of Automotive Engineers recommended practice for Adaptive Driving beams -which was first published in June 2016. The new testing requirements for adaptive driving beams include all the traditional physical and photometric tests for headlamps, as well as specific logic requirements for when / where the beam must meet the low beam photometric requirements the upper beam photometric requirements, and when it can be in a transition zone. In addition, the NHTSA final rule adds a full system level dynamic test in order to prove that the ADB system will not result in excessive glare to oncoming drivers. The new dynamic test includes:

  • Dynamic testing: Includes a complete matrix of test drive scenarios including multiple driving speeds and turn radii at a set of stimulus vehicle fixtures all of which include a 220-meter test section over which a test vehicle must maintain a constant speed.
  • During each test drive lux measurements are made at representative locations to establish glare limits for the ADB system.
  • Stimulus fixtures: Comprised of oncoming and preceding vehicles and motorcycles. Each fixture includes representative headlights or tail lights as well as glare sensor locations typical for a driver's eye or mirror locations.
  • Test drive: Glare limits are set at specific test distances from 220 meters to 15 meters between the ADB vehicle and the glare sensors. The test track must be flat and the vehicles path must not deviate by more than +/- 0.5 m from the specified path.
  • The standard requires minimal extraneous ambient light (from reflective or other natural or man-made sources) within the immediate field of view of the glare sensors or ADB vehicle.
  • Data acquisition: Illuminance data must be collected for each glare position at a minimum rate of 100Hz, and passed through a low-pass filter at 35 Hz. Additionally the photometers must be cosine corrected (to within 3%) and allow a maximum incidence angle of 25-degrees.

For more information, read our blog post on “Test Strategies for Adaptive Beam Headlights” or watch our on-demand webinar.

Intertek can assist OEMs and headlamp suppliers get their adaptive beam products into the US market with our extensive photometrics testing capabilities and proving grounds access. Contact us today for more information on how our Total Quality Assurance expertise can bring your A.D.B. headlamps to the roadways.

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