[                ]

    Dear [            ]:

    This responds to your letter, in which you ask how a swiveling lamp, incorporated as original equipment in a new vehicle’s headlight assembly but with its own on-off switch, would be characterized under Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 108, Lamps, Reflective Devices, and Associated Equipment. Your letter states that the swiveling lamp is designed to automatically enhance illumination around corners and through curves, so as to improve a driver’s ability to see pedestrians, bicycles, and other objects that may be in the roadway. Specifically you ask whether the swiveling lamp would be "a supplemental piece of lighting equipment and therefore not directly regulated by [FMVSS No. 108]." For the reasons below, we have concluded that the swiveling lamp you have described would be a component of the required headlighting system under FMVSS No. 108. Consequently, its installation on a motor vehicle would violate those provisions of the standard that limit a replaceable bulb headlamp to having no more than two replaceable light sources.

    You have requested that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) accord your letter confidential treatment because it includes proprietary commercial information. We note your attorney’s consent on your behalf that your interpretation request letter and our interpretation may be made public, provided that all information identifying you and your company are deleted. We shall follow this procedure, which will adequately describe the device to allow a reader to understand just what this interpretation covers.

    Your letter states that the vehicle’s complete front lighting system will include all of the forward lighting equipment required by FMVSS No. 108, as well as the swiveling lamp, as depicted in the attachments to your letter. However, the swiveling lamp would

    use a different light source and reflector than any of the other functions, and it is controllable by a manual on-off switch on the dashboard that is independent of the switch for operation of the vehicle’s standard headlamps. Once engaged, activation of the swiveling lamp is a function of transmission position (i.e., the vehicle must be in neutral or a forward driving position) and of the state of the vehicle’s headlamp switch (i.e., low or high beams must be engaged). Horizontal aim of the swiveling lamp is determined by both vehicle speed and steering input.

    Your letter further states that the swiveling lamp has been designed to aim its light output downward and to the side, so as to be distinct from and to not affect the brightness or visibility of any turn signal. According to your letter, the swiveling lamp has also been "designed to minimize glare to other drivers."

    Paragraph S7 of FMVSS No. 108, Headlighting requirements, requires vehicles to be equipped with one of several permissible headlighting system options, whose specifications are set forth in the standard. Headlighting systems are comprised of headlamps and associated hardware. The standard sets its performance requirements for headlamps, in part, through reference to the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Standard No. J1383 (Performance Requirements for Motor Vehicle Headlamps; April 1985).

    Under paragraph S7.5, Replaceable bulb headlamp systems, subparagraph (a) provides, "The system shall provide only two lower beams and two upper beams and shall incorporate not more than two replaceable light sources in each headlamp."  This limitation on the number of light sources was contained in a final rule published on May 22, 1985, that amended FMVSS No. 108 (50 FR 21052).

    We note that subsequent to that time, NHTSA has engaged in rulemaking seeking to develop more performance-oriented and less design-restrictive headlighting requirements; [1] however, the proposed system specifying roadway illumination requirements was found to be complex, and there were questions as to whether the uncertain potential benefits justified the perceived regulatory burdens. Consequently, the rulemaking was terminated, [2] and FMVSS No. 108’s existing requirements were retained, including the limitation on the number of replaceable light sources. NHTSA stated that it would be willing to revisit the issue of more performance-oriented changes to FMVSS No. 108 through the regulatory process, perhaps through negotiated rulemaking. [3]

    In determining whether the swiveling lamp is part of a headlamp system or a supplemental piece of lighting equipment, an important consideration is where the swiveling lamp directs its light. According to section 2.1 of SAE J1383, a "headlamp" is defined as "a lighting device providing an upper and/or a lower beam used for providing illumination forward of the vehicle."  Your swiveling lamp would provide illumination forward of the vehicle when a turn of a sufficient magnitude is executed, which is consistent with the headlighting function.

    Based upon its function, we view your lamp as a type of Adaptive Frontal-lighting System (AFS). AFSs are systems that can actively change the intensity and direction of headlamp illumination in response to changes in vehicle speed or roadway geometry, such as providing more light during a turn. We note that the agency published a request for comments on the AFS issue in the Federal Register on February 12, 2003 (68 FR 7101).

    Other governments and organizations support the position that lamps that bend light in the direction of a turn are adaptive frontal-lighting systems. In order to allow introduction of this new headlighting technology in Europe, regulations are currently being modified under the auspices of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) (see ECE R112 A2). SAE has also issued a draft standard J2591 (Adaptive Forward Lighting System) that characterizes swiveling lamps as part of the headlighting system.

    Beyond the fundamental matter of where the light emitted by the swiveling lamp is directed, other factors also lead us to conclude that the swiveling lamp is part of the headlighting system. We note that the swiveling lamp you describe uses a headlamp replaceable light source to emit a beam that provides significantly more light flux than supplemental cornering lamps or fog lamps designed to conform to applicable SAE standards. In addition, when operated as intended, the use of cornering lamps and fog lamps is limited to more narrow driving conditions and situations; in contrast, your swiveling lamps are presumably intended to be used regularly, since turning is a routine part of driving. We do not find the inclusion of a manual on-off switch (which can be left on indefinitely) to be a dispositive indicator that the swiveling lamp is a piece of supplemental lighting equipment.

    For the above reasons, we have concluded that the swiveling lamp described in your letter is an integral part of the headlighting system, and as such, it would cause the headlighting system to exceed the maximum number of permissible light sources under paragraph S7.5 of FMVSS No. 108. Consequently, the swiveling lamp described in your letter would not meet the requirements of the standard.

    If you have any further questions, you may call Mr. Eric Stas of my staff at (202) 366-2992.


    Jacqueline Glassman
    Chief Counsel


    [1]  See 54 FR 20084 (May 9, 1989).

    [2]  See 60 FR 58038 (November 24, 1995).

    [3]  Id. at 58039.