Daniel Stern’s Keynote at DVN 2021 from Isocat on Vimeo.
Great to see you in person Daniel, even though only on video and a great speech. I find myself the first one here today to comment and only by accident ACCIDENT! What a word to use at the beginning? It has been an interesting road we have traveled in life. You Made it and I am proud to have known you if only in your younger days.
Thanks, Hemi! I’m happy to have met you, too. Our roads have been almost completely different, but I’m glad they’ve converged from time to time.
Great presenter! So well-spoken!
That was interesting, I learned about ADB, and the history of NHTSA. And confirmed that I think like an engineer. Because I am one…
That was a really good presentation, delivered to experts but understandable by almost anyone.
Thanks, Doug! The ADB story is both amazing (high beam seeing with low beam glare; finally, a win/win resolution to the century-old conflict between seeing and glare) and pathetic (the US is the only country where ADB isn’t allowed, and NHTSA’s proposal on how it should work is so bad as to kick both of ADB’s legs out from under it).
You are as distinguished a speaker as you are a writer.
Nice to hear what you sound like.
I can’t show you what I sound and look like but just imagine George Clooney but with better hair with the voice of James Earl Jones.
I’ll take a bow for that—thanks!
I like how the ’62 Dodge hijacked the speech!
Bunch of car company and supplier engineers near Detroit, I figured it might drag some eyes up, up, and away from phones!
That was a really interesting presentation. Your description of the evolution of the NHTSA describes a well-known phenomenon among those who are into economics – Regulatory Capture. That is where the group that is supposed to be regulated manages (through lobbying, campaign contributions, influence over personnel and other methods) to obtain effective control over the regulating agency. It is hard to argue that has not happened here.
I just realized that one of the great advantages of a long beard like yours is that it doesn’t matter how good or bad you might be at tying a necktie – nobody can see the quality of the knot. 🙂
There certainly is regulatory capture at play in the NHTSA, as in many industries. But do auto companies really fight safety regulations these days? It seems like the auto industry in general has embraced regulation. Is that an accurate impression I have?
do auto companies really fight safety regulations these days?
Tooth (lawyer) and claw (lobbyist), oh, yes, they do.
Thanks, JPC. Regulatory capture: absolutely. I am glad that phrase came to mind; one of my goals with this speech was to put it across without actually saying it. If I’d had more time (and less political sensitivity to keep in mind) this would have been a longer speech with a section starting “That said…” after the part about NHTSA’s having been captured, caged, and tranquilised by the auto industry.
You’re right about beard vs. necktie. It goes beyond that, too—nobody can tell I leave my collar unbuttoned, either. Shhhh, it’s a secret!
Safe and unsafe. Now two of us were talking about this yesterday in my office. The other party was the fellow who owns the 68 Squareback I did a story on. He has made improvements to the car as it runs smoother and quieter. His daughters, born 2003 and 2005, feel it is still smelly and don’t like it. Now his wife, born 1971, also feels it is smelly but her main reason not to ride in the car is because it is…unsafe. So the idea that safety was entirely dependent on the driver in 1966 has shifted in the generations to the car.
Great speech Daniel! You made what could easily have been a very dry monogram into an interesting talk. Hope the rest of the conference was up to that standard.
The glory of your facial hair never came through in your writing here, so I was pleasantly surprised. You mentioned difficulties of the pandemic, which got me thinking: is that beard compatible with facemasks? Have you been granted any dispensations?
Thanks, Jon. I used up 20 or 21 of my 15 minutes, which set a bad example for the rest of the speakers—and I’d still wound up crossing out a fair amount of text from the speech, and there were big chunks on the topic I hadn’t even added in the first place, because I didn’t have enough time (and there were political sensitivities to mind).
Face masks haven’t been a problem, no need for any dispensations. The only apposite trouble was when a flight attendant (on the way back from this conference, actually) decided to try to start a fight where none existed. Donno if she was trying to get on YouTube or what, but she failed in her attempt at stirring up shіt—foiled by our firm belief in following a flight attendant’s directives without backtalk or delay, even if we disagree with them; even if we know they’re wrong.
As if flying needed a way to become even more miserable! Yeah, it never pays to argue with a flight crew.
Was well worth a second listen to catch some details that didn’t sink in the first time through. Woulda been hard to compress that amount of worthwhile information down to 15 minutes… I think you earned your additional 6 minutes fair and square!
I had to look up ADB headlights, and I’m sad that I did, now that I know that we won’t get them in the US any time soon.
…and if/when we do, they’re very likely to be severely hobbled and inferior compared to what the rest of the world gets.
This just in: looks like we’ll be getting them. Whether hobbled and inferior, we’ll see:
Can ADB lights be programmed to be optimized for left- or right-hand traffic by flipping a switch?
Daniel, great talk. Regulatory capture is a huge threat to every one of us.
Back in those early days of NHTSA, cars – especially sports cars – sometimes had to be changed to raise the headlights to meet the new regs. (IIRC one maker installed the front wishbones upside down and they were almost always then switched back, as a way of getting around the rule.)
Now of course it’s the opposite that really really irks me. Headlights on a lot of new pickups are now at or above my head sitting in our CR-V, let alone in my Mazda 6. This literally makes their low beams useless for their intended purpose i.e. not blinding oncoming drivers or drivers in front (via mirrors). And exacerbated by the very blue very bright bulbs (LEDs?) now common.
I’d love to hear your take on headlight height rules, and on how the makers are getting around whatever rules there are.
Re headlight height rules:
You’re not alone in that.
I grew up with a series of Dodge pickups, standard size (these were both sealed-beams; I’m almost old.) My Dad then bought a Fiat 850 Spider–that was my first time seeing regular and lower headlights next to each other that I can remember. (All our other cars were American station wagons.)
Then I read about the Vehicle Code regarding lots of things, including minimum headlight height above the road. The idea that we’d have to consider a maximum height above road says something not complimentary about carmakers.
We don’t have to consider a maximum headlamp height—we already have one: 54 inches (137.16 cm) above the road surface. What has to be considered is whether this is too high. The answer is probably yes. The rest-of-world maximum low beam headlamp height is 120 cm (47.24 inches), just seven inches lower than the American spec. I don’t have a database and haven’t been running around any parkades with a measuring tape, so I don’t know offhand how close today’s trucks and SUVs come to brushing up against the maximum headlamp height.
By specification and practice, headlamps, regardless of mount height, are aimed lower outside North America; that means less glare but shorter seeing distance. In practice headlamps are pretty much not aimed at all in North America. It’s frustratingly difficult to get a proper aim job done on this continent, even if you’re willing to pay.
Does that maximum height apply if one jacks up the truck? I am assuming not, or if so it’s unenforceable.
Agree about aiming not happening here. It does seem that it’s gotten harder to do on many cars also since the demise of sealed beams.
The maximum height applies to vehicles as built or imported for first sale in America. Anything after that is left to the states to regulate (or mostly not) and enforce (or mostly not).
I didn’t know–I’ll go with “yes” too.
This reminds me of how in 1960 Ford made everybody look up various state (I think) highway codes for maximum width of ordinary passenger vehicles.
The LEDs (or HID lamps) look blue only because you’re comparing them to halogen incandescent headlamps on older or lower-end vehicles. If you compared LED lamps to actual daylight, you’d find even the LEDs aren’t as bluish as real sunlight.
The HIDs and LEDs look blue because their output contains an enormous amount of blue light—a very high spike in the blue-violet wavelengths—and stylists delight in accentuating it with optics that create a strong blue-violet band of light at the top of the low beam, just above the cutoff, so as to deliberately cause the car to give off prominent blue light as it rolls over undulations in the road.
Shorter: they look blue because they are blue.
Sunlight at noon on a clear day is 5600 Kelvin right in the middle of 5 and 6K below. Compared to 3K you could say it might look blue but I’d say more white than blue. Above 6K we are getting blue.
Reminds me of a disagreement with the electrician aboard the USS Hornet. I replaced lights in the Island with 5000K LEDs vs his 2800K. He complained that the seafoam green color looked bluish. Well of course beacuse it is SEAfoam green not golden green. He complained that haze gray looked bluish. Of course since it is HAZE gray not golden gray. On top of that 5000K is used in situations where one needs to be awake and alert like factories, warehouses, hospitals or a warship. In the end he retired and I won.. To the human retina one should view a color under light of around 5000K give or take a little.
The problem is that most LED’s don’t approximate real daylight very well, having a large spike in the blue wavelengths that makes them harder on the eyes of oncoming drivers (sunlight is much more even across the spectrum)… and of course the auto makers want to accentuate that blue light as much as possible, courtesy of the marketing department. The color of the light (within reason) isn’t as important as other factors such as beam pattern and total light distribution, so all things being equal, less of a shift towards blue is better from a safety standpoint. And even if we could replicate sunlight dead on, would it be the most wise choice to be shining it at oncoming drivers?
Just my thoughts…
TAC, you’re pretty completely right.
(if we had a choice of headlamps with a spectral power distribution similar to that of sunlight or headlamps with the blue-spike-and-yellow-hump-and-valley-in-between spectral power distribution of today’s LEDs, we’d be far better off with the sunlight spectrum—whether we were behind or in front of the lamps.)
tbm3fan, you may have won the argument you tell about here, but…you’re mostly not right. It is an error to focus on CCT like this when discussing the quality and characteristics of artificial light. For one thing, that first “C” stands for correlated; without veering into the high weeds of a full explanation, it pretty much means apparently approximate. The light of noonday sun, with its colour temperature of 5780K, is nothing at all like the light from an LED with a 5780K CCT.
Markete(e)rs such as the “HID kit” scam artists who put together this image you used like to hype CCT because it lends well to oversimplified blurbs and soundbites and nuggets of received “wisdom”, which is what matters when you’re trying to make the cash register ring…but most of all because HIDs and LEDs, like fluorescents before them, are mostly very poor in the factor that matters, SPD. That’s Spectral Power Distribution, the relative prevalence of light of the various wavelengths in the visual range, within the output of a given light source.
SPD is closely linked to CRI, colour rendering index (how accurately colours are rendered by a given light source). Those paint colours you talk about likely weren’t rendered accurately by either your 5000K LEDs or your opponent’s 2800K items.
“Above 6000K we are getting blue” is not accurate. Neither is much of anything else on your image there. For starters, light that actually has a CT or CCT of 3000K is white, not yellow, and the list of lies in that image grows pretty long from there.
All of that and even more. As I type this I’m thinking of one state’s vehicle code which specifies that headlamps shall at all times be operated in such a manner as not to cause glare to other road users, and then goes on to say low beams are deemed not to cause glare regardless of vehicle load. That’s a pretty common bit of language in vehicle codes, and as you say, it completely destroys the point of low beams. Low beams aimed up—whether by some dillweed turning the screws at random or by a bunch of cargo in the back of the vehicle—are effectively high beams.
You’re also right on your other point. For any given intensity, white light with a higher blue content causes significantly more (almost 50% more) discomfort glare than white light with a lower blue content. Which implies we could slash glare dramatically while keeping seeing light equal—or we could keep glare equal while dramatically increasing seeing light, or some mix of the two—by going to a warmer white instead of pursuing this idiotic bluer-and-bluer-and-ever-bluer trend while babbling factlessly about “closer to natural daylight” and blah-blah-blah. But take a walk through any parking lot or down any street and look at all the degraded plastic headlight lenses; the stylists and beancounters win and the engineers lose every single time.
I’ve got a list of lighting-and-regs-related posts to put together; y’all haven’t seen the last of me on here yet!
Headlight height is a pet peeve of mine! Stock vehicles aren’t a problem, but there are so many lifted trucks these days that shine their lights right square into my mirrors, it’s aggravating.
Do American truck manufacturers know how pathetic their factory headlights actually are in real time service? Semi tractor and rigid trucks I mean not the toy stuff
American makers don’t have a monopoly on pathetic headlamps; the UN (“European”) regulations used outside the American regulatory island are different, but—just like the American regs—they also fail to require adequately safe headlamps. Moreover, the light we need as drivers is not the same as the light we want as drivers. Headlamps that give good safety performance but feel as though they’re lousy are common. So are headlamps that give lousy safety performance but feel as though they’re good.
I’m interested in hearing more about that – bad lights that look good and vice versa. Not doubting you at all, just very curious. (Yes I am an engineer, why do you ask?)
This is an old, old dilemma faced by headlamp engineers for many decades. The human visual system is a lousy judge of how well it’s doing. I know what I can see! seems reasonable, but it doesn’t square up with reality because we humans are just not well equipped to accurately evaluate how well or poorly we can see (or how well a headlamp works). Our subjective impressions tend to be very far out of line with objective, real measurements of how well we can (or can’t) see. The primary factor that drives subjective ratings of headlamps is foreground light, that is light on the road surface close to the vehicle…which is almost irrelevant; it barely even makes it onto the bottom of the list of factors that determine a headlamp’s actual safety performance. A moderate amount of foreground light is necessary so we can use our peripheral vision to keep track of the lane lines and keep our focus up the road where it should be, but too much foreground light works against us: it draws our gaze downward even if we consciously try to keep looking far ahead, and the bright pool of light causes our pupils to constrict, which torpedoes our distance vision. All of this while creating the feeling that we’ve got “good” lights. It’s not because we’re lying to ourselves or fooling ourselves or anything like that, it’s because our visual systems just don’t work the way it feels like they work.
The opposite case would be a headlamp with utterly minimal foreground light but plenty of well-distributed up-the-road light: we whiteknuckle the steering wheel because it constantly feels like we’re about to drive into the black hole directly in front of the car, but in fact we really do have the light we need to be safe on the road.
Obviously, there are higher-order effects on safety; if we’re constantly freaked out while driving because our headlamps feel unsafe, that in itself is going to be a pretty big distraction, and a distraction is a detraction from safety.
Thanks. That makes a lot of sense.
Kind of goes hand in hand with what I taught my kids – look far ahead when driving, so you have time to react. That has saved my butt -well, my bumper actually- plenty of times, and my 3 kids have made it into their 20s without crashing…
(Also slightly related, I am Scoutmaster and I teach my scouts to (and I quote) ” turn off that damn flashlight, and get it out of my eyes.” The parents all want to buy them $40 250 lumen headlamps. I tell them to buy a $3.99 AA 80 lumen worklight form Harbor Freight instead, and even that’s brighter than they need.)
Daniel, I really enjoyed this. I see that you’ve already kind of looked at the comments and replied, but I do have 2 questions for you if you come and revisit this:
1. I’ve been lucky myself a few times to give talks to my peers, and I was wondering how you prepare for something like this. For me, I never write anything out, but I make myself an outline, and then speak on the outline in practice a few times; While this isn’t a 100-percent repeatable talk, it seems to work best for me.
2. How do you feel about some of the new more extreme lighting coming out, mainly I’ve noticed from the Korean makes? They seem to like to put the turn signals down in the rear bumper, and the new Hyundai SUVs have the hidden-in-the-grill-segments multi-element headlamps.
Thanks Paul for posting this, and thanks Daniel for the talk. Also, I have to say, as someone who’s beard tends to just get weird after a few months and needs a trim- that one is MAJESTIC.
How did I prepare? Not as well or as much as I probably should have; I rehearsed this speech once while timing it to figure out which parts had to get axed. I would like to have made more and better eye contact with the audience and less with my notes.
I share your objection to brake lights that are up at the expected height and turn signals that are six miles south of there in the bumper bar. But there are more and bigger problems with lamps too close to each other than with lamps too far apart, and if it’s a choice between that and a red combination brake/turn light, I’ll take the six-miles configuration.
Headlamp design is evolving in a whole bunch of new directions. The optics used with LEDs are a lot more efficient than those used with other kinds of light source, which frees up a lot of design ideas that previously weren’t practicable. Neato and stuff, but I do wish the engineers had at least a little more clout over the stylists. Lamps and lights on a car are primarily life-safety devices and secondarily costume jewellery, and a lot of automakers seem to be getting that backwards lately.
(Thanks for the beard compliment—I haven’t seen my chin since 1997!)
Daniel, for what it’s worth, it certainly didn’t seem like you were rushed for prep. It was awesome.
For me, the Hyundai grill-headlamp-turn-signal-thing was the first time I had actually been astonished by anything in automotive design since, like–I don’t know? maybe the Taurus?–so I’m glad to hear that it’s not, like, a safety dead end and all. My dad used to have an astonishingly-styled 92 Intrepid, and we all know about those headlights.
Edit: ha, I just remembered something about what you said about eye contact… while I don’t have a whole lot to look at with notes, I then tend to stare off into space a bit while collecting my thoughts for the next few sentences. So it’s a little of 6-of-one-half-a-dozen in terms of making good eye contact with the audience, I suppose.
Those…sorry, which, now? I understand “Intrepid” and I understand “headlights”, but when you put them together like that it doesn’t compute!
Daniel, I apologize, but apparently when the AMC folks took over Chrysler, they made a new car called the “Dodge Intrepid”. Its claim to fame was that it was the first “disposable car,” not to exceed 30,000 miles or a year (whatever came first) and also the first car since before the Model T to not actually have headlamps installed at the factory.
This reminds me of all the years of arguing over blue or amber emergency lighting on plow trucks and highway maintenance vehicles. No room for rational thinking.
So after 100+ years of green or flashing green meaning:
“Other traffic being stopped for you, GO! nothing to think about here, keep moving”
“Toll booth clear, GO!”
“Drawbridge down, safe to traverse, Go, Go!”
“Monitored system is go”
Now suddenly green is the color of choice to indicate:
“Slow moving dump truck ahead, possibly obscured by blowing snow.”
“This Dump truck may slow to a crawl on freeway before making U-turn”
“Wide vehicle plowing snow and throwing slush, dangerous to pass”
Daniel, like the others, I enjoyed your presentation a lot, and learned a lot too. ADB headlights – wow, bring ’em on! Can’t be too soon for these old eyes.
I liked your presentation manner a lot – you came across as warm, friendly, witty (in a dry non-distracting way), fair-minded, and knowledgeable.
Your beard is awesome!
Again, please keep the articles on CC coming!
P. S. I liked how you pronounced “route” the Canajen way: “root”, rather than “rout”.
Thanks kindly! Yeah, ADB—if done properly, as in the rest of the world—is high-beam seeing with (at worst) low-beam glare. The utterly thoughtless ADB proposal put forth by NHTSA, in defiance of absolutely all counsel and advice, probably won’t achieve that.
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
Notify me of follow-up comments by email.
Notify me of new posts by email.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.
Copyright 2011 - 2021 Curbside Classics. All Rights Reserved.