OULONDUN Xenon lamps, Blind City
Everyone I know hates those super-bright high-intensity-discharge headlights. Even people who have them on their own cars hate them on other people's cars.
"Xenon lights blind oncoming drivers," they complain. "How come they're allowed?"
Since Xenon lamps tend to blind me too, I consider this a good question.
First, some facts. It's not just your eyes: High-intensity-discharge or Xenon lights really are blue. Instead of using a glowing filament, they use high voltage to generate a bluish spark which arcs from one electrode to another through xenon gas, xenon lighting it up.
The advantages of Xenon lamp? Xenon bulbs threefold as much light as halogen bulbs. Up to five times the life span of halogen. A wider spectrum of light, so that road signs and pavement markings appear more vivid. And extra points for looking cool. The disadvantages: Cost (five times more than halogen, which is why Xenon lights are still available only on luxury cars). And that pesky little problem of blinded oncoming drivers (definitely uncool).
Yet every researcher I've talked to says it ain't so. Even though xenon conversion kits are threefold as bright as halogen, Xenon lights still fall within government standards. The problem, it seems, is that we're just not used to them. As we weren't when halogen lights were introduced, and people complained of being blinded by them.
Now, I have no reason to doubt the experts when they tell me it's all in my mind. But I happen to think my mind is important. And that we're in one of those double binds where cold reason says one thing and everyday (or rather every-night) experience says the opposite.
Perhaps xenon lamps should be placed only on the high beams, I thought, so that they're used only when there are no other cars around. But then the sudden change from one kind of light to another would blind the Xenon lamps driver as surely as oncoming drivers are blinded by HID xenon conversion kits.
So perhaps we should light up road signs, as they do in Europe and Japan, where headlamps hug the road more instead of being directed upward as they are here in the States. But in this tax-averse society, who's going to pay for that?
The only answer may be to respond to high-tech with old-fashioned low-tech. I can see a thriving business starting up in nighttime sunglasses, a.k.a. moon glasses. Beat that for crazy cool.