Dating back to the days of the Neue Klasse, BMW models destined for the U.S. market have typically received less effective headlights than their rest-of-world counterparts. Take the 2000C and 2000CS for example, which were sold with sleek glass-lensed headlights integrated with the body elsewhere, but equipped with quad circular sealed beams in the U.S. This practice continued for decades, with the E30 3 Series using conventional sealed beams in the States, instead of the highly preferable projector-lens ellipsoid setup that other countries and markets received. Although technology advanced significantly with the arrival of the E36 3 Series, U.S. market cars went without the manually-adjustable projector design and employed halogen bulbs behind a set of inner and outer lenses.
Although things have undoubtedly improved in the modern era, with various BMW headlight technologies now available across nearly the entire lineup including LEDs, it still takes years for the latest headlight technology to arrive in the U.S. One example is the BMW i8, which was offered with optional BMW Laser Light headlights starting in 2014. The better part of a decade later, BMW laser headlights are still only offered on a handful of upscale models, even though BMW has effectively combined the technology with the more popular and cost effective LED setup that most automakers and driver seem to be opting for.
With a sweeping infrastructure bill on the horizon though, the U.S. effectively being left in the dark as far as headlight technology is concerned could finally change. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, as the legislation is known, sets a two-year time limit for the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to amend Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard Number 108 (FMVSS 108), which would effectively open the door for the use of adaptive headlights in cars bound for the U.S.
Although BMW has been using the term adaptive in relation to headlights for approximately two decades, the latest technology offered in Europe and elsewhere specifically works by changing beam and dispersion to illuminate objects, and is referred to as adaptive driving beams.
Also included in the infrastructure bill is wording to create a performance-based standard system for headlights which means that the NHTSA could adopt its own rating arrangement, not unlike the IIHS and its Headlight Testing and Rating Protocol.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]