Volvo's permanent high beams keep other drivers in the shade


February 28, 2013

Volvo's Active High Beam Control selectively shields other cars from dazzling high-beams

Volvo's Active High Beam Control selectively shields other cars from dazzling high-beams

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Being dazzled by car high beams is no joke. Having someone come around the corner and forget to dip their headlamps isn't just annoying, it’s potentially dangerous. To be featured at next week's Geneva Motor Show, Volvo’s Active High Beam Control is a mechanical system installed in the headlamps that actively and selectively shields oncoming or cars being followed from the lights. This allows Volvo drivers to keep their high beams on continually without fear of dazzling others or being unable to see a suddenly darkened road.

With Volvo's Active High Beam Control, the car’s lights still illuminate the road everywhere except cars approaching from the opposite direction or cars being approached from behind. This means that you can still see the sides of the road and the other driver can confidently stay in control of their car.

It does this by means of the camera already installed in the Volvo’s rear-view mirror for the car’s detection and auto braking system. The camera detects the other car and calculates the area to be shaded within a 1.5-degree margin. The Active Beam Control system then activates a tiny cylinder with different sized metal pieces that shade the selected area to the proper degree.

"Our aim with the renewed Active High Beam Control technology is to enhance visibility in the dark by making it possible to use high beam permanently, without having to switch to low beam when meeting or catching up with other cars," said Prof. Lotta Jakobsson, Senior Technical Specialist Safety at Volvo Cars Safety Centre.

According to Volvo, the system also works with motorcycles and at speeds down to 9 mph (15 km/h). The company will have the system on display at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show next week and it will be available in the Volvo S60, V60 and XC60 models from the Northern Hemisphere spring of this year.

Source: Volvo

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past. All articles by David Szondy

Nothing new there: this system has been available on the VW Phaeton for 2 or 3 years.


Edwin Land had the brilliant idea of making the headlamp glass and windscreen made from glass polarised at 90 degrees to each other. No moving parts and impossible to fail. It is not too late to apply it. Obviously, it would take time, but the world's vehicle stock does rotate and in the meantime we still have dipped beams to meet the anti-dazzle need.

Mel Tisdale

If you are driving on a busy four lane road (two in each direction) does that mean that most of your light is blocked? Would a car equipped with this tech also have conventional low beams to use in these situations?



Indeed, you even do not need the lamps yet. Just start changing windows.

Unfortunately nobody thinks in terms of half centuries, even 10 years seems too long for them. No direct profit I guess.

Kris Lee

As a runner, this concept concerns me. Everyone who is using the road needs to be able to see. This includes pedestrians who should be facing oncoming traffic - you cannot dodge a car that you cannot see Dazzling a pedestrian makes it all the more likely that the pedestrian is going to trip, fall, slip, something and end up in the roadway in front of the car. It doesn't matter if the driver can see you if you roll your ankle or trip over debris and end up in the road. Unless this technology can shield pedestrians as well it may make it safer for other drivers but I can see the number of pedestrian fatalities increasing.


So what if there is more than one car facing you?

Billy Sharpstick

@funglestrumpet & Kris Lee: polarized windows let in substantially less light than regular windows. Bulbs would have to be substantially brighter and less efficient, and (more importantly) all other visibility would be notably reduced. That second part is not a reasonable tradeoff in most cases.

@Dargand: Any idea how well this works in cities or in the rain? It seems like something that would mostly be useful in the country, with very few drivers on the road, in good weather, not like something that would be good in heavy traffic or heavy rain.

I'm a little surprised that this system is mechanical though - an LCD screen in front of the lights would seem more effective, though maybe again the problems of polarizing the light prevent that from being as good as it sounds. It's also funny that this picture shows the car being blotted out as if the cone of darkness starts at the car and not the headlights.


If anything, there should be a light frequency counter that tells the computer that it is in a non-rural area and just simply keep the lights lowered. It could count the street lights above or the head lights coming straight at you to inform the computer that it is a well-traveled road and to not actuate the highs at all.

I used to own a new 1987 Thunderbird that had about the best- designed automatic dimmers in the business and it was probably still annoying to people coming towards me, following behind the car that just past my sensor's threshold. Click on, click off, click on, etc. And that was electronic. Anything mechanical will like that will suck, eventually. Hey, how about all those ultra clean headlight and rear window wipers, too.

The only mechanical thing on a car that worked was the preheat louver system on my friend's Saab radiator. Why? Because he controlled it, I reckon.

Courtesy is paramount when sharing the road, and I gladly flash my high beams on any annoying adjustment coming at me, whether it's up to factory settings or not. The mechanic or driver doesn't have to bear the brunt of blinding light in his eyes to remove his night vision even temporarily to keep from running down a pedestrian or hitting a car.

For example,how about all the "dummies" out there running on so-called driving lights with heavier than normal loads in the p.u. bed or back seat of their car. Doesn't do us oncoming drivers any good when you get those low lights shining up above your hood into your eyes.

I think it's a bad idea taking control of lights from the owner/operators control.



@Billy Sharpstick: I don't know how effective it is or not (in cities, in the rain, in the countryside, with more than one vehicle, ...), but I would think it is. The Phaeton is the flaghip of VW, so they would not sell it with any gadget that is not fully functional. (In fact, it is not a VW but a Bentley Flying Spur in disguise.)



It sounds interesting! - and please note that the car-camera that is mounted on the rear of the rear-view mirror is obviously forward facing. It is in the same location as the main camera on a mobile phone, ie.on the back of the phone and facing forward in order to take pictures. However most people cannot understand this and constantly refer to the "rear-mounted" camera as being "rear-facing" .



"...this picture shows the car being blotted out as if the cone of darkness starts at the car and not the headlights."

Perhaps the headlight control angles the light down just in front of the oncoming car, so as to maximize the illuminated area--just like regular low-beams do.


To "blot out" a distant object, the source of the light needs to be a concentrated "spot" (as opposed to a large surface) - think: the difference between a clear old light globe (where you can see the filament) and an opaque/frosted/pearl one (where you can't see the filament, and the whole surface of the glass glows white).

Try, for example, to cast a dark spot anyplace using your current car, and just one hand - you can't do it - because your headlight is already bigger than your hand. (remember to pull over before attempting that :-)

For this to actually work, it means that anyone who doesn't enjoy the darkened area, is going to have to suffer point light-sources that are 100 times brighter than a regular high beam.

Most intense headlights I've seen have a deliberate black spot over the bulb, to protect everyone from that danger (only the larger-area diffused light from the reflector goes out).


Cyclists and pedestrians will be blinded. Already bad enough with HID and LED lamps, especially Audi, and those who insist on using their driving lights.. I use a cycle path that runs alonside the oncoming traffic, it's already blinding and painful with dipped lights.

Peter Humphreys

This lighting technology is also available on the Audi A6 and A7 and possible other models. See You Tube videos Audi - light Efficiency (Part 1) , (Part2), and (Part 3)

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