LED Matrix Headlights: Why Auto Manufacturers Are Pushing for a US Law Change

From autonomous braking to backup cameras and lane-departure warning sounds, today's auto manufacturers offer vehicle safety features like never before. Some promising safety features, however, never make the US market because of tight and arguably outdated federal regulations.

Read on to learn about the brilliance of LED matrix headlights and why auto manufacturers are doing everything they can to get the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to revamp the rules of the road. 

What Are LED Matrix Headlights?

LED matrix headlights were introduced in 2013. Unlike the single-bulb headlights of the past, these new headlights feature a grid of 25 light-emitting diodes connected to a front-facing camera with super-sensitive light sensors. Each diode shines light in a different direction, and when the camera detects oncoming light, it sends a signal to the car's computer to dim just the diodes that shine toward the direction of the oncoming light.

What's So Great About Them?

These LED lights allow drivers to conveniently see the road ahead of them far better when driving at night. Instead of having to manually dim the lights on their entire field of vision, they do nothing; the vehicle itself automatically dims only a portion of light (the portion that would affect other drivers), while the rest of the light is unchanged and the rest of the road fully illuminated. 

To oncoming traffic and vehicles driving in front of a car with LED matrix lights, it appears as though the matrix lights have been dimmed. To those behind the wheel of a car with matrix lights, however, the ride is steadily illuminated in a bright stream of light. 

How much does this technology cost? European car models with LED matrix lighting sell for just 960 euros more than models with standard LED lighting. Judging by these numbers, U.S. consumers can expect to pay just $1,052 on top of the price of a standard new car package to get a LED matrix headlight-equipped car. Of course, that's once the headlights become available in the United States.

Why Aren't They Legal?

In 1968, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) laid out a set of standards for vehicle headlights. These standards require all vehicles on the road to have a switch that allows the driver to dim their lights for oncoming traffic. The standards also state that that no headlight shall be brighter than 75,000 candelas

Because LED matrix headlights work automatically and don't require a dimmer switch, and because they illuminate at ranges higher than 75,000 candelas, they are not permitted in the United States.

Despite the fact that 80 percent of vehicles on the road today fail to provide ample headlight illumination, these US headlight standards remain unchanged. Auto manufacturers cannot provide US consumers with the safety benefits of LED matrix headlights until the law allows them to do so.

Will They Be on the Market Soon?

Auto manufacturers aren't the only ones lobbying for a change in US headlight regulations. The American Auto Association has noticed that old laws could be stunting the advancement of safety features, and they're pushing for a legal makeover, too. 

LED matrix headlights are legal and currently in use in European countries, where vehicle regulations are far less strict. Once these new headlights have been in use for long enough to compile firm statistics on their benefits, you can expect to see brighter-at-night lights on US roads. 

Until then, take good care of your vehicle and have it serviced regularly; when the laws are changed and it comes time to swap your car for a model with LED matrix headlights, you'll get a better trade-in price if your vehicle is well-maintained. Keep updated by contacting Audi services in your area.