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Volvo headlights keep the brights on without blinding traffic

You'd never have to switch off your high beams again -- but this option won't be available in the U.S.

By Douglas Newcomb Feb 27, 2013 2:27PM

Volvo Active High Beam Control. Photo by Volvo.Several automakers offer headlights that automatically switch from high beam to low and back again, and the feature isn’t new. But in January, Audi was the first automaker to introduce technology that would make even the switching of headlights from high beams to low beams obsolete.

Now Volvo has a similar twist with an update of its Active High Beam Control feature, which allows drivers to leave their "brights" on permanently without blinding other drivers. At the upcoming Geneva Motor Show, Volvo will unveil the innovative headlight technology on the new S60, V60 and XC60.

But like Audi’s Matrix LED headlights, segments of which can be independently activated or dimmed in conjunction with lenses to adjust light accordingly, Volvo’s technology may not make it to the U.S. due to regulatory issues.

When a Volvo equipped with the new Active High Beam Control encounters an oncoming vehicle or when it closes in on another car from behind, the system shades portions of the high beam as necessary. It uses a camera that’s already located by the rearview mirror (employed by Volvo's autonomous-braking driver assist systems such as City Safety) to identify other vehicles and areas that need to be shaded.

The camera communicates with a control unit that sends the information to a “projector module mechanism” that’s part of the headlight assembly. If the car’s high beams need to be dimmed, a small cylinder with metal pieces of various sizes shades as much of the beam as necessary. According to Volvo, the technology can divert the light pattern around a given object to within a 1.5-degree margin.

Volvo said that the main advantage of the new feature is that the area outside of the shaded area is still illuminated by the high beams. This improves drivers' ability to detect objects in their field of view and on the side of the road, for example, such as a parked car, pedestrian or animal. Active High Beam Control can also detect motorcyclists and is active at speeds down to 1 mph.

“Our aim with the renewed Active High Beam Control technology is to enhance visibility in the dark by making it possible to use high beams permanently, without having to switch to low beams when meeting or catching up with other cars,” Lotta Jakobsson, a senior technical specialist at Volvo Cars Safety Centre, said in a statement. “The technology makes driving at night more comfortable and safe. It also makes it easier to focus on the driving."

Volvo said that the feature will be available starting this spring in Europe, but not here in the U.S. due to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 108, which states that “headlights are not allowed to shine in such a dynamic way.” It's yet another example of safety technology we can’t have.

[Source: Volvo]

Feb 28, 2013 8:00AM

Im sorry, but do we really need this stuff?   Can manufacturers are now just dreaming stuff up for the sake of dreaming stuff up.  It's extra cost with very little real world requirement or application.  I rarely ever use my high beams or my fog lights, and when I do I am quite capable of switching them on my own..


All they're doing is ensuring the maintenance bays will be busy with very costly repairs in 7-10 years.

Feb 28, 2013 6:55PM

Troy S.


They post it so we can be educated in what else is out there. This also helps it so we can demand changes to be brought to the current system, making it possible to get the technology or vehicles here in the USA. This is supposed to be the country for the people, by the people so why not take it back and start being just that? We should be able to change the current requirements and shouldn't be subject to them but they subject to our decisions.

Feb 28, 2013 5:00PM
Why does MSN keep posting articles about automobiles and automobile related technology that we can't have in the US? Is there some sort of agenda?
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