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Shedding Light on Headlamp Glare

Blinded by the light? The Lighting Research Center is tackling car headlight glare.

Scientists in Rensselaer’s Lighting Research Center (LRC) are examining the causes and effects of car headlamp glare and developing technological solutions to glare using advanced forward lighting systems that meet a car’s performance requirements but minimize unnecessary glare.

New headlamp systems presently promoted by lighting and vehicle manufacturers claim to provide drivers with additional visibility under certain driving scenarios. However, there are still many unanswered questions regarding how these new technologies relate to visibility, glare, driver behavior, and safety, according to the LRC research team now delving into these issues.

“Recent headlamp technologies are presenting new oncoming appearances for drivers, which have resulted in increased complaints of glare to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration,” said Mark Rea, LRC director. “To help assess the issue, the LRC is conducting research to examine the intensity, color, and size of oncoming headlamps and determine the effects of these parameters on visibility, as well as impressions of visual discomfort.”

Some drivers may experience problems with visual re-adaptation — the ability of the eyes to recover their sensitivity to see objects after being exposed to glare. According to Rea, glare can be deceiving. A driver’s visibility may be impaired by glare without the driver experiencing discomfort.

As the LRC scientists move ahead in their research, the team plans to outline what new aspects of headlamp systems should be further examined. The results of the research will be reported to Congress as part of the requirements of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, signed into law Aug. 10, 2005, by President Bush. This research is funded by a two-year, $890,012 award from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

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