Mr. Tom L. Ricca
Tom L. Ricca Associates
1413 Wyandotte Road
Columbus Ohio 43212
Dear Mr. Ricca:
On March 19, 1997, we replied 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." We informed you that three of four features of the invention were acceptable under the laws and regulations that we administer. These features were the "40-Second Delay Turnoff", the "4-Minute Delay Turnoff," and the "4-Hour Blinking Delay Turnoff."
The fourth feature was "Daytime Running Lights", or DRLs as we call them. We informed you that we interpret S5.5.11 of Standard No. 108 as requiring headlamps used as DRLs to be operated in either the upper beam or lower beam mode, but not permitting switching between upper and lower beam modes. Because your system switches between modes, your system would not comply with the specifications for OEM DRLs.
We also informed you that there was another reason as well. S5.5.11(a) 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 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 did 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, and wrote that, as a legal matter, you were requesting in effect an amendment of S5.5.11(a) beyond the limits of an interpretation.
As an aftermarket device, we informed you that 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.
Finally, we called 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.
You FAXed us on April 28, 1997, asking for a further interpretation, and before we had a chance to answer, wrote additional letters dated June 6, 1997, and June 23, 1997. This letter responds only to your letter of June 23, 1997, which we understand to be the latest description of your invention.
The LightGenie system is still unacceptable under Standard No. 108. We note that you now describe the "4-Hour Blinking Delay Turnoff" as causing "the parking lamps, tail lamps, license plate lamps, side marker lamps and the headlamps if desired . . . to blink . . . ." This is a noncompliance with S5.5.10(d). Paragraph S5.5.10(b) permits only the headlamps and side marker lamps to flash for signaling purposes. Paragraph S5.5.10(d)requires other lamps (e.g.,parking lamps, taillamps, and license plate lamps) to be wired to be steady burning.
We also call your attention to S5.5.7(b). You write ("(b)") that the LightGenie OEM DRL system "may turn off the tail lamps, parking lamps, license plate lamps and side marker lamps as specified by S5.5.3." This is an incorrect reading of S5.5.3 and overlooks the requirements of S5.5.7(b). Paragraph S5.5.7(b) requires activation of the taillamps parking lamps, license plate lamps, and side marker lamps whenever the headlamps are activated in a steady burning state. The only relief afforded by S5.5.3 is to allow a vehicle manufacturer the option of not activating the taillamps when the headlamps are activated at less than full intensity as permitted by the specifications of S5.5.11(a) for DRLs.
As we advised previously, aftermarket modifications, such as adding the LightGenie system, by a manufacturer, distributor, dealer, or motor vehicle repair business, are forbidden if they create a noncompliance in a vehicle certified as complying when it was manufactured.
You also write ("(c)") in detail about the operation of the LightGenie control. This is so complicated that it requires 48 lines of text for you to describe it. We understand you to say that the LightGenie/DRL headlamp control system is meant to substitute for the headlamp control that would otherwise be provided. The LightGenie headlamp control contains three automatic "on" positions, and four manual "on" positions. We contrast this with the usual headlamp control which contains two manual "on" positions, though some cars add one optional automatic "on" position. This multi-choice headlamp control seems unnecessarily confusing and without an evident safety rationale. However, there are no Federal specifications for operation of headlamp controls, nor can we say that this multi-function control creates an impairment withing the meaning of S5.1.3 as long as there is no confusion about how it activates the headlamps in the headlamp mode.
We understand from "(a)" that the system operates on either the upper beam or the lower beam. This appears to meet our previous objection to a system that operates between beam modes.
Finally, you conclude ("(d)") that the LightGenie OEM DRL system, will not "impair the effectiveness of any lighting equipment required by Standard No. 108, as specified by S5.1.3". The determination of impairment is to be made by the vehicle manufacturer at the time it certifies compliance with all applicable standards including Standard No. 108, and by any alterer at the time of its certification. Unlike your previous letter mentioning the aftermarket, your letter of June 23 speaks of the LightGenie only as "OEM". We regard as original equipment any motor vehicle equipment that is present on a vehicle at the time of its first sale for purposes other than resale. This includes equipment added by a dealer after the vehicle has been certified by its manufacturer. Any person who alters a certified vehicle before its first sale, by the addition, substitution, or removal of readily attachable components such as mirrors or tire and rim assemblies, must affix a label stating that the vehicle has been altered and certifying that the vehicle remains in compliance with all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards. We believe that a person installing the LightGenie before a vehicle's first sale would be an "alterer" and required to recertify the vehicle.
To sum up, the LightGenie system as described in your letter of June 23, 1997, will be acceptable under Standard No. 108 if it is redesigned so that it does not create noncompliances with S5.5.10(d) and S5.5.7(b), providing those corrections do not impair the effectiveness of other lighting equipment required by Standard No. 108, e.g., reducing the intensity of other lamps on the vehicle that are on the same circuit as the reduced intensity headlamps used as DRLs. With this statement, we do not believe that there is a need for a further interpretation regarding the Light/Genie.
Acting Chief Counsel