IIHS developing rating system for adaptive headlights

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and its coveted Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick + ratings have had a monumental impact on automotive crash safety. With things like rollover testing and the small-overlap test, automakers are designing vehicles that are better prepared for the kind of crashes drivers might get into. Now, the non-profit is turning its eyes to an under-appreciated piece of safety technology – headlights.

In particular, IIHS is looking at adaptive headlights, also known as active-front lighting, which can turn with the steering wheel to illuminate around bends. While adaptive headlights will serve as a significant part of the headlight rating, which Automotive News reports could become a requirement for TSP+ status as soon as 2017, it's far from the only factor. IIHS is also exploring the role played not only by bi-xenon, HID, and LED headlights, but also the benefits of automatic high beams.

"We've studied all of these different innovations to the extent we're able, and the strongest signal we get back from the data is that the steerable headlights are associated with the largest reductions of crashes reported to insurers," IIHS Chief Research Officer David Zuby told AN. "It makes sense that if drivers can see better at night, they'll be involved in fewer crashes at night."

While rumored safety standards are occasionally met with an eye roll from auto enthusiasts – hello lane-keeping assist – it's a safe bet that everyone can get behind headlights that are not only brighter, but smarter, too. Now we just need to hope that the fanatical desire of automakers to score a TSP+ rating has the same impact on headlight tech as it has on crash safety.

With a bit of luck, maybe IIHS' position on headlight tech will finally convince federal regulators to ditch their draconian standards and allow cutting-edge European tech, like Mercedes-Benz's MultiBeam LEDs and Audi's Matrix Beam LEDs, to enter the US market.

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