By on March 4, 2013

Automatic high beams have been around since I drove a 70’s era Cadillac DeVille, probably longer. At the Geneva Motor Show, Volvo shows a new and improved automatic high beam. Fitted into the S60, V60 and XC60, Volvo’s Active High Beam Control shields cars in front of you from the brights.

According to Volvo, the system uses the camera already installed for the detection and auto brake systems to identify the other vehicle and the area that needs to be shaded.

The control unit talks to a mechanism integrated into the headlamp. A tiny cylinder with metal pieces of different sizes allows the possibility of shading just as much of the beam as necessary.

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27 Comments on “Volvo Lets You Drive High...”


  • avatar
    nickeled&dimed

    Neat, but unnecessary since they’ll be driving for you in not too long, and then you won’t need the light, just the lidar/sonar/detector arrays that talk to the computer.

    On similar note, has anyone seen the video of the headlights that do this, but with raindrops? It only shines on the space around raindrops or snowflakes, vastly improving visibility.

    • 0 avatar
      Autobraz

      They are necessary and a good idea for these years between now and the self driving car, so why dismiss them? I wish they could put a little square on the pedestrian’s face too, as not to blind them with the high beams.

      • 0 avatar
        nickeled&dimed

        I agree completely, this is a great technology… my comment was supposed to be a bit tongue-in-cheek but comments on blog posts never quite convey the same tone.

        I’d think that the square on pedestrians too would be beneficial – I’m sure it’s just another recognition algorithm. As a bicyclist / pedestrian on road-side paths (i.e. not sharing the lane) it’s sometimes totally debilitating, which is bad on a bicycle.

  • avatar

    Automatic highbeams have been around since the ’50s.

    The Autronic Eye was gradually replaced by the twilight sentinel type system that doesn’t dim the lights.

    And seeing the oblivious nutjobs driving around me that can’t figure out that their brights are on and blinding every one at the light would be welcomed.

  • avatar
    WaftableTorque

    I used to drive a Mitsubishi Galant/Dodge 2000GTX with 6 inch Bosch Pilot driving lamps and 100w (!) H3 bulbs. I thought the beam would be narrow enough to use on the highway with low beams, but they weren’t. So it was a wasted purchase.

    Fortunately, I was able to aim them in such a way that if someone approached me with high beams, I could blast them with 200W of focused halogen beams. I never knew revenge could be so fun.

  • avatar
    BerlinDave

    Harley Earl had the automatic headlights on his Le Sabre, if I remember right. Early 50′s Cadillacs, Oldsmobiles and Buicks had the controller stuck on their dashboards as accessories. Relatively common addition as I recall. Do not remember if they worked all that well, however. Seemed to sort of disappear in the early 60′s. Maybe it did not work all that great.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Certainly innovative but is this what Volvo does in place of compelling product? Do very minor features really sell your product over product X?

    • 0 avatar
      MeaCulpa

      In Europe features like this is required to be perceived as premium. Some part of cadillac’s failure to compete as a luxury brand can be attributed to the total lack of modern technology, just sticking a big screen in the center stack doesn’t cut it. That aside, Volvo is working on new products that isn’t based on Ford technology, but has to do something until those models arrive.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Ah the perception of premium, similar to Volvo putting wipers on its headlights as Mercedes does?

        Hopefully the Swedes won’t underwhelm us with this new product.

        • 0 avatar
          MeaCulpa

          I actually think Volvo predates Mercedes with the headlight wipers and the concept was spearheaded by SAAB (early 70′s). I don’t know if it was available in the US at the time due to the SAE lights.

          In its home market the big problem with this technology is the integration of auxiliary driving lights. I do hope that they have a wiring harness/software combo that makes it possible to manually operate just the aux.lights. We Swedes LOVE driving lights, so much that we secured an exemption from the European light regulation, resulting in the age old tradition of trucks/lorries with at least 10 lights continuing.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            In the spring I was actually contemplating putting fog lights on my 240, as well as enhancing the behind-dash area with additional bulbs for brightness. I enjoy lights too.

          • 0 avatar
            MeaCulpa

            For tha SDM (Swedish Domestic Market) look you should go for 3 Bosch Ralley 225 Big Knick or a couple of Hella Profil in front of the grille. That will make a hell of a difference compared to foggies.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I’ve actually seen those Hellas mounted on the grilles in pictures, the thought has crossed my mind. Can you detach them from the grille/bumper or are they permanent?

  • avatar
    FuzzyPlushroom

    Three of my old Volvos have had 20-year-old yellowed composite lenses, and I can confirm that for years now in a Volvo, you’ve been able to leave your high beams on against oncoming traffic – they simply can’t tell your brights are on!

    Unfortunately, neither can you.

  • avatar
    Spike_in_Brisbane

    I don’t like this idea at all. High beam should only be used and is only needed on unlit country roads with little or no traffic and at high speed. This technology will have people leaving high beam on all the time. It will shine through bedroom and restaurant windows, blind pedestrians on the sidewalk and add unnecessary light pollution to the sky.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      This is wrong. High beams are supposed to be used whenever it is dark and there is no one in front of you to blind to allow more of the road to be visible, along with more visibility of things on the side of the road. If Volvo can shield the high beams from vehicles that you would be normally blinding, it sounds like a good idea too me. Especially here in MI where there can be a car a few hundred feet in front of you, but a deer hidden in the area your low beams don’t hit.

      • 0 avatar
        Spike_in_Brisbane

        MBella, you must drive an older car. If you turn on modern headlights against your garage wall you will see the wall brightly lit up until a horizontal cutoff line which prevents blinding oncoming traffic. To the right (on LHD cars) the beam angles upwards to illuminate parked cars, pedestrians, playing kids, dogs and deer. High beam shines higher in order to extend further down the road to cover sections you will reach in similar time but at higher speed. It is designed for highways and country roads where you have higher speed limits. Using high beam in lit suburbs is unnecessary, illegal and creates a hazard which can endanger other drivers and, ultimately, yourself.

        Modern lighting is very efficient as is evident on bicycle headlights. These can be extremely bright. They have no dipping mechanism, are not regulated as to their aim and are installed by the often incompetent owners. I have been dazzled more often by cyclists recently than by motorists.

    • 0 avatar

      So you’re saying that you prefer people not being able to use the best lighting possible. Please don’t drive after dark in my neighborhood.

      Unless there’s oncoming traffic or if I’m worried that some overzealous cop is going to hassle me about it, when it’s dark out I drive with my high beams. Being able to see your kid who’s crossing the street is more important to me than keeping my lights from shining through your bedroom windows.

      Back in the day it was called a “dimmer switch”, which to me says that the high beams are the normal position. Since the auto industry has been offering auto-dimming headlights since the 1950s, like Cadillac’s “Autronic Eye”, and if you look at how the Volvo system is designed, it stands to reason that plenty of auto engineers believe you should drive with your high beams on unless there is oncoming traffic.

      You’re welcome to live where there’s no “light pollution”. Of course in those places there’s not much in the way of civilization either. From earth orbit at night, the difference between North Korea and South Korea is visible from the fact that the North Koreans are literally living in the dark.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        “Back in the day it was called a “dimmer switch”, which to me says that the high beams are the normal position.”

        One of the confusing things for Audi owners a few years ago was that the car referred to regular (low-beams) as “dipped bulbs” whereas the high-beams were considered the “main beam”. People thought that their bulbs were literally dipping down!

        Fords/Lincolns had an auto-dimming system too on some models, I remember.

  • avatar
    RobertPaulson

    For the love of god, just put the high beam switch on the floor again. Why is this not an offered feature anymore?


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