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Government needs to catch up with the latest safety tech

Earlier today, we published our first drive review of the hydrogen fuel cell Toyota Mirai. It turns out it’s a fantastic car that happens to run on a fuel that isn’t widely available.

That’s a bummer.

But it could be more widely available than it is. Hydrogen filling stations are popping up a lot of places, and there’s solid refueling infrastructure in the northeast. But Toyota can’t sell the Mirai there.

Why? Regulation.

You see, a car full of hydrogen is carrying a “hazardous material” and in areas around Boston, that means a driver wouldn’t be able to use a tunnel or drive over a bridge. Regardless of how safe the Mirai is, antiquated rules prevent progress.

It gets more ridiculous when you start looking at headlight technology.

As we all know, you need headlights to see at night. The brighter the headlight, the more you can see. The problem lies in the fact that if your headlights are too bright, you’ll blind oncoming traffic.

Even though we have advanced LED technology here, and headlights that pivot in a turn, and automatically adjustable high beams, our headlights are still pretty antiquated.

In Europe for nearly a decade you could purchase a car with matrix headlights. Modern systems use a bunch of LEDs to light up the roadway.

The difference is when you approach a car in front of you, it dims the area of the lights shining on the car. But not the light around it. So you can still see far up the sides of the road without blinding the person in front of you.

Oncoming cars get the same treatment. The lights dim as the car approaches and follows the car until it passes by, while the rest of the lights stay bright.

This isn’t even luxury car technology anymore. Entry-level family hatchbacks can often be equipped with this technology.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates vehicle headlights as part of its Top Safety Pick scoring. Manufacturers want to be able to continue to win these awards.

Manufacturers also want this headlight tech here. The Audi e-tron is available with the matrix lights in the United States, they just aren’t activated. When the law changes to allow them, Audi can easily enable them.

It’s time we look at antiquated automotive safety standards and regulations and modernize them.

Written by Chad Kirchner
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