CEI Comments to NHTSA on Adaptive Driving Beam NPRM

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On behalf of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (“CEI”), I respectfully submit these comments in response to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (“NHTSA”) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Lamps, Reflective Devices, and Associated Equipment (“NPRM”).[1]

CEI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public interest organization that focuses on regulatory policy from a pro-market perspective.[2] CEI had previously published a report in January 2018 highlighting NHTSA’s failure to conform its regulations to contemporary voluntary consensus standards and specifically urging modernization of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (“FMVSS”) No. 108 by incorporating SAE Recommended Practice J3069 to permit adaptive driving beam (“ADB”) headlamps in the United States (see Appendix A).

CEI divides our comments into two sections. First, we argue that NHTSA’s proposed deviations from SAE J3069 are unnecessary. Second, we argue that these departures will harm consumers by increasing the cost of ADB systems, reduce safety benefits that could otherwise be realized through lower-cost ADB system equipage, and reduce incentives for future ADB system innovation.

I.The NPRM Unnecessarily Departs from SAE J3069

SAE J3016 was published in June 2016 in an effort to standardize ADB headlamps and promote international regulatory harmonization. Outside the United States, most of the rest of the world relies on ADB standards codified in United Nations Regulations Nos. 48 and 123, which were contemplated in the development of SAE J3016. As of March 2018, Canada allows ADB headlamp certification to either the U.N. Regulation No. 123 or SAE J3016.[3]

CEI urges NHTSA to adhere to SAE J3069’s illumination and glare provisions. But even if NHTSA were to depart from SAE J3069 on these matters, the NPRM suggests that compliance could only be met by manufacturing different headlamp or camera sensor hardware. NHTSA here fails to adequately consider how software changes and/or adjustments to headlamp aim could accomplish these performance goals without costly hardware design changes to meet a disharmonious government-unique standard.

II.Unnecessary Disharmonization Increases Costs, Reduces Safety, and Harms Innovation

Departing from SAE J3069, as NHTSA proposes in the NPRM, would harm consumers by increasing the cost of ADB system equipage, thereby reducing the consumer appeal of ADB lamps and forgoing the safety benefits of ADB adoption that could otherwise be realized. This reduced consumer demand for ADB systems could also reduce manufacturer investment in lighting system research and development.

NHTSA’s routine divergence from voluntary consensus standards and its chronic failure to keep its FMVSS current to modern standards is well documented (see Appendix A). However, this problem is further compounded by NHTSA’s departure from consensus standards that are incorporated in foreign regulations. A 2016 Center for Automotive Research report estimated that divergence in safety regulations between NHTSA and its European Union counterpart increased costs by $3.3-4.2 billion, 2- to 2.6-times the total automotive tariff costs in 2014.[4]

In the case of the NPRM, NHTSA is needlessly deviating not only from SAE J3069, but from U.N. Regulations Nos. 48 and 123 upon which much of the rest of the world relies. Short of mutual recognition—as top U.S. automotive trading partner Canada has done with respect to its ADB regulation’s incorporation of both SAE J3069 and U.N. Regulation No. 123—NHTSA should eschew a government-unique standard in this rulemaking in favor of SAE J3069.


We appreciate the opportunity to submit comments to NHTSA on this matter and look forward to further participation.

Respectfully submitted,

Marc Scribner
Senior Fellow
Competitive Enterprise Institute

[1].     Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Lamps, Reflective Devices, and Associated Equipment, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, NHTSA-2018-0090, 83 Fed. Reg. 51,776 (Oct. 12, 2018).

[2].     See About CEI, https://cei.org/about-cei (last visited Dec. 8, 2018).

[3].     Regulations Amending the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations (Interpretation and Standards 108 and 108.1) (2018); Canada Gazette Part II, 152(6); available at http://www.gazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p2/2018/2018-03-21/html/sor-dors43-eng.html.

[4].     Greg Schroeder et al., Potential Cost Savings and Additional Benefits of Convergence of Safety Regulations between the United States and the European Union, Center for Automotive Research (Jul. 2016), available at https://www.cargroup.org/publication/potential-cost-savings-and-additional-benefits-of-convergence-of-safety-regulations-between-the-united-states-and-the-european-union/.