It’s not enough any more to equip a car with automatic high beam headlights — the next step is active high beams, which shift light away from other cars while keeping full-beam coverage everywhere else. We’ve already seen similar systems from Mercedes-Benz and Audi, and Volvo will follow suit on a number of its recently-updated models.
We reported earlier this month that Volvo is updating its S60, V60, and XC60 models with new front fascias, but the automaker revealed today that those new clips offer new adaptive headlights, which Volvo dubs Active High Beam Control.
The Active High Beam Control system starts with typical Xenon headlights (which shift left or right depending on steering angle, the same as before), but the projector unit contains a small cylinder with smaller metal pieces inside. As the light passes through the cylinder, the system can push the metal pieces into the beam, blocking certain portions of the projected light.
The system makes the decision to block part of the beam based on input from a camera located in front of the rear-view mirror (the same system is also tied to Volvo’s City Safety automatic braking system). When the system detects a car up ahead (either a slow-moving car in the same lane or one coming in the other direction), it signals the projector to push a metal piece into the beam, shading out the car. The result is high-beam coverage everywhere around the car (at the road’s edge, for example) while still not blinding other drivers.
Volvo says that the system is active at speeds above 9 mph and works with motorcycles; it also says that the camera system is powerful enough to frame other cars with accuracy to within 1.5 inches.
The system will be rolled out (as an option, naturally) on 2014-model-year cars being launching in Europe later this spring, including the S60 sedan, V60 wagon, and XC60 crossover. What’s unfortunate, however, is that Volvo won’t bring the system to the U.S. any time soon. The reason: Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards — also known as FMVSS — are fairly restrictive about low- and high-beam headlights (specifically, that there be two clear settings), and states require that drivers turn-off high-beam headlights for traffic in oncoming lanes. A system like this may follow the law in spirit — it won’t blind other drivers — but it is still technically driving with high beams on.