There’s an enormous amount of skill, talent, and passion about vehicle lighting within and around the DVN community, and there’s an enormous amount of ignorance and misinformation about vehicle lighting among the driving and lawmaking public. We love to devise excellent new lights and find ways of getting them onto vehicles, and we’re good at it. But technical hurdles aren’t the only challenges for us to vanquish; there are also legal, regulatory, and public-understanding obstacles. That’s probably more or less true everywhere, but it’s worse in some places than in others. In Germany, well-known companies and driver-advocacy outfits sponsor car light safety months; service vans roam the streets and parkades adjusting and repairing vehicle lights while driver- and car-orientated magazines run feature-length articles about lighting. None of that happens to any meaningful degree in America.
Consider a letter we recently received at the DVN editorial offices. Edited for clarity (and, er, manners) it reads:
“I recently read an article in the New York Times about ADB headlamps. Your [DVN] editor was quoted. I’ve viewed a few of the ADB simulation videos. Nothing there to convince me it actually works as advertised. I have no faith that this technology is going to protect my eyeballs from getting blasted. When I have a vehicle behind me blasting my eyes, I adjust my mirrors to shoot the light directly back into the driver’s eyes. I’ll need to use that technique with ADBs following me. What happens to the sensors, cameras, etc that control the ADB’s when they have their own very bright light reflected back to them?
“Whenever ADB technology becomes approved by the NHTSA, I’ll believe it works when I see it. I drive a 2004 Toyota Corolla with standard halogen headlamps. I can see ahead just fine at night, unless I’m blinded by super-halogens or LEDs or some bonehead with the high beams on. ADB is a money-making compensation for morons behind the wheel. No one would develop this if there wasn’t money to be made.”
The letter writer displays profound ignorance, comparable to that of the drive-in movie theatre owner who got his fellows to raise hell about ADB. We mustn’t just dismiss him and his ilk as dumb cranks, though, for these are the people who need ADB’s safety benefits. These are the people who will eventually be making decisions of whether to buy ADB. And some of these people are the ones who will be writing the state vehicle codes that will have a lot of say in whether and how ADB can actually be used on the roads.
There are occasional glimmers, but for the most part Americans don’t know or care much about car lights—whether they’re using them at night or writing the laws that govern their use. That’s been a problem for a long time, and it’s going to be a much bigger problem once ADB will be authorised federally. We need to get to work right away to address this appropriately, or we’ll have an awful mess on our hands.
This week we take a look at how comparable issues were addressed the last time a technology revolution stood ready to sweep aside the severe inadequacies in the existing headlamps. There’s a reading assignment involved—please take the time to do it. It’s not just a fascinating glimpse of technological history, it’s also a pretty good road map for what we need to do in the here and now.
Through the night brightly,
Daniel Stern, DVN Chief Editor