Autos

Car headlights are becoming more high-tech than ever, and regulators are having trouble keeping up

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VIDEO16:0516:05
How headlights became so high-tech

Headlights are quietly undergoing a technological revolution, and regulators are trying to catch up.

For much of automotive history, innovation came to headlights gradually. But over the last few decades, the pace has quickened. Now, automakers are using LED technology to create arrays of tiny lights that can cast complex beam patterns. The so-called adaptive driving beams can illuminate an entire road while shutting off any bulbs that would shine in the eyes of oncoming drivers.

Even more sophisticated headlights have such high resolution that they can display graphics or even animations. These could be used to display warnings or other important information in front of the driver. In theory, the technology could enable a car to project an entire movie from its headlamps.

As of now, federal regulators are in the process of making rules that could completely change the way drivers see the road and each other.