Mercedes-Benz adaptive high beam headlightsEnlarge Photo
By monitoring both vehicles and pedestrians in the path of an Adaptive High-Beam Assistant-equipped vehicle's beams, the system always keeps the headlights dipped just below the range where it could blind or annoy onlookers (Mercedes calls it "dazzling"). But since current low beams are set a bit lower than this blind threshold, in everyday use the new Benz system will often afford drivers the benefit of low beams aimed a little bit higher (anywhere from 213 to 984 feet). As soon as there are no traffic or pedestrians in front of the vehicle, the system gently switches into high-beam mode for maximum illumination and safety.
Mercedes notes that, currently, high beams are used for only about 8 percent of nighttime journeys. By eliminating the need for the driver to manually select high beams, Mercedes is hoping they will be used more frequently in appropriate situations and never in inappropriate ones.
The system is commandeered by a small camera positioned inside the windshield, which monitors the view in front of the car. The data it transmits to the system's microprocessors is analyzed and transmitted to the headlamps every 40 milliseconds, allowing faster-than-human reaction times. The system works in concert with Mercedes' self-leveling bi-xenon headlamps, taking steering angle into account and lowering the beams appropriately. Adaptive High-Beam Assistant will become active above 34 mph when drivers of a Mercedes so equipped turn the headlights to "Auto" mode and engage the vehicle's high-beam function by pushing forward on the turn-signal control stalk.
Given that high beams are only selected in 8 percent of night driving, as Mercedes points out, will this useful safety feature remain largely dormant?--Colin Mathews