Tom L. Ricca Associates
1413 Wyandotte Road
Columbus Ohio 43212
Dear Mr. Ricca:
This is in reply to your letter of January 20, 1997, asking for an interpretation of Federal law and regulations as they may apply to your invention, the "LightGenie."
According to the product literature you enclosed, your invention has the following features. The first is a "40-Second Delay Turnoff"; when the engine is stopped and the ignition key removed while the main lighting switch is on, the lights will be automatically extinguished after 40 seconds. The second feature is "4-Minute Delay Turnoff." When the engine is off, turning the light switch to on will cause the lights which are controlled by the switch to be turned on for four minutes continuously, and then automatically turned off. The third feature is called "4-Hours Blinking Delay Turnoff." Under this feature, when the vehicle engine is stopped, the parking lamps, and headlamps if desired, will blink automatically for four hours before turning off automatically. These three features are acceptable under our law and regulations.
The fourth feature is "Daytime Running Lights", or DRLs as we call them. Whenever the engine is running, the upper beam headlamps will be on, to be extinguished 10 seconds after the engine stops. In addition, the intensity of the headlamps is lowered during the day to avoid glare to other drivers. The lamps switch to lower beam and the parking lamps are illuminated if the outside ambient light level falls below a certain level. However, the main light switch of the vehicle has to be in the headlamp-on position in order for the DRL feature to function. You believe that the LightGenie may not comply with S5.5.11(a) of Standard No. 108 "which can be interpreted as to prevent the production of dangerous glare into the eyes of other drivers by the addition of the on state of either lower beams or upper beams of the headlamps which are not intended to operate as DRL." You would like an interpretation of S5.5.11(a) which would permit your system to be used.
You wish to market the LightGenie in both the OEM and aftermarkets. As you know, DRLs are not required items of original lighting equipment. But once a manufacturer chooses to offer a system that employs lamps on the front of a vehicle that are illuminated during daylight hours, that system must comply with paragraph S5.5.11(a). Paragraph S5.5.11(a)(1) establishes general illumination requirements that do not apply if the DRL system is "(i) a lower beam headlamp intended to operate as a DRL at full voltage . . .; or (ii) an upper beam headlamp intended to operate as a DRL, whose luminous intensity at test point H-V is no more than 7,000 candela . . . ." As we understand it, the LightGenie activates the upper beam headlamps at something less than full intensity during the daytime, switching to full lower beam intensity under low ambient level light conditions. We interpret S5.5.11 as requiring headlamps used as DRLs to be operated in either the upper beam or lower beam mode as specified above, but not permitting switching between upper and lower beam modes. For this reason, your system would not comply with the specifications for OEM DRLs.
However, there is another reason as well. S5.5.11(a) presently requires automatic deactivation of DRLs "when the headlamp control is in any 'on' position . . . ." Your system requires the headlamp control to be in the "on" position in order to operate. You have asked that we read S5.5.11(a)to require deactivation of DRLs "when any upper beams or lower beams of the headlamps which are not intended to be operated as DRL are turned on continuously . . . ." As a practical matter, we do not see how the vehicle's headlamp system could be operated as a headlamp system if the control must be in the "on" position for the LightGenie to operate. As a legal matter, you are requesting in effect an amendment of S5.5.11(a) beyond the limits of an interpretation.
As an aftermarket device, the LightGenie might be usable on vehicles that were not originally equipped with DRLs as long as it allows the headlamp control to perform its original design function. However, the LightGenie would still have to comply with local laws in order to be operated within any State. We are unable to advise you on state laws, and suggest that you contact the Department of Motor Vehicles in the States.
Finally, we call your attention to paragraph S5.5.11(a)(ii) which allows an upper beam headlamp to be used as a DRL only if two conditions are met: that the headlamp's luminous intensity at test point H-V is not more than 7,000 candela, and that the headlamp be mounted not higher than 864 mm above the road surface. This would appear to rule out use of the LightGenie using the upper beam of headlamp of some larger sport utility vehicles and trucks.
If you have further questions, you may call Taylor Vinson at 202-366-5263.
Acting Chief Counsel