NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Regulation Inhibits Innovation in Cars

June 27, 2013

It should come as no surprise that technology is transforming cars much faster than stodgy government rules can adjust, says Popular Mechanics.

As the pace of innovation accelerates, the gap between invention and regulation widens, making it unclear whether some of the coolest new automotive tech will actually be allowed in American cars. These clever car systems, unfortunately, are having a hard time getting approval in the United States.

  • Dynamic High Beams: New headlights use arrays of LEDs that can be programmed to pinpoint where light goes. When another car approaches, headlight arrays dim only the specific LEDs that shine into the oncoming lane. These systems let drivers enjoy the benefits of bright illumination without blinding the oncoming driver. Currently, though, the federal vehicle safety code permits only one kind of low beam.
  • Dynamic Light Spot: Mercedes has a lighting technology that identifies pedestrians on the shoulder or sidewalk via an infrared sensor and shines a light on them. But the option is not available in the United States for the same reason we can't have dynamic high beams -- federal safety code.
  • Strobe Brake Lights: Mercedes-Benz sells cars in Europe that are equipped with brake lights that flash quickly in response to hard brake pressure. The idea is to warn following drivers of a sudden stop from cars ahead. But U.S. government regulators say brake lights are allowed to do only one thing: glow more brightly than the taillights.
  • Dual-View Front Video Display: Mercedes-Benz Splitview system lets the central display screen on the dashboard show navigation, infotainment or other typical information for the driver while simultaneously showing a movie or other entertainment for the front-seat passenger. In some cases, technology might pass muster in Washington but fail in the statehouse. That's the case with the Mercedes-Benz Splitview system.
  • Aspherical Mirrors: On an aspherical mirror, the main part of the mirror surface is flat, but it curves away toward the outer edge to show all the space in your blind spot. These helpful features remain illegal here because of bureaucratic foot-dragging in Washington. A 2007 law required the Department of Transportation to revise the federal vehicle code to require a larger field of view in the mirror by the end of 2012, but that new rule (which could permit aspherical mirrors) still hasn't arrived.

Source: Dan Carney, "10 Car Options the Law Won't Let You Have," Popular Mechanics, June 19, 2013.


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