Matrix-Beam Headlights: Government at its worst

matrix beam headlights

One of the things I love to moan and groan about is government interference in the areas of business and technology. Brought to light(no pun intended) over the last several months is German car maker Audi’s struggles with the US Government on the subject of installing Matrix-Beam Headlights on its A8 Models in the USA. In a nutshell, the NTHSA has said no – you can’t do it. Audi in reply, has meekly said – OK.

Matrix-beam headlights are a unique innovation that car makers are using now to help illuminate the driver’s field of view better by focusing the beam of light away from oncoming traffic, sensing when there is an object or person on the kerbside of the road, and shining more light in that direction. On the face of it, it seems a logical improvement on the old low-beam, high-beam systems that worked well until something much smarter and efficient came along. Into the fray steps the Federal Government with its size 12 muddy boots to say, “Wait a minute, boys. There is a law which was established back in 1968 that states you cannot mess with the way high beams and low beams interact”. Here comes the real juicy part. The boys in the white coats, the NTHSA, “remain unconvinced” that this technology represents a true safety improvement. It claims that rear-end impacts have actually increased in models carrying LED adaptive headlights.

Roughly translated, what this means is that “we’ve got a ton of money sitting around that needs using up so we need time to spend it trying to disprove your technology right up to the point where we decide that is was a positive step forward after all”. I swear that if it was up to these clowns, we’d still be riding around on pedal bikes with the large wheel in the back and the little wheel in the front. Disappointingly, it looks like Audi has already thrown in the towel on trying to fight the decision. The reason that is has come to a head now is that in Europe, the new A8 is getting ready to launch and it comes complete with, yes you guessed it, matrix-beam headlights.

I’d expect and hope that Audi will shake off this blow and along with BMW, Cadillac and Mercedes begin to lobby regulators to get this law changed to allow this technology to move forward. You’d think they’d be chomping at the bit to get this law overturned or changed simply because these headlamps add about $3,000 to the sticker price of a luxury car. The new system supposedly cuts fuel consumption, has a longer life, and according to car maker’s initial surveys, actually make drivers “feel” more comfortable at the wheel. Of course, this isn’t the first time that US car owners have been slammed by Federal Laws requiring additional safety guidelines. Some cars on the market today carry bumpers that are US-specific and aren’t installed anywhere else.

I understand the intentions behind these laws but I have no sympathy for how they are handled. For me, this is government at its very worst.

C’mon, Audi. Grow a pair will you?

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