Volvo's Latest High-Tech Trick: Permanent High-Beam Headlights

March 5, 2013

For decades, Volvo has staked its reputation on outstanding safety features. But now, nearly all of Volvo's competitors offer arrays of airbags, automated braking systems, and similar gadgetry, forcing Volvo to think further outside the box.

In recent years, Volvo engineers have developed curious but thoughtful safety systems, like an airbag just for pedestrians and a warning system that detects wildlife. And let's not forget the company's widely publicized SARTRE "road train" technology.

Now, Volvo has debuted something that's a little less groundbreaking, but which could be very interesting to consumers: permanent high-beam headlights. The technology -- dubbed Active High Beam Control -- is being shown on the all-new Volvo S60, V60, and XC60 at this week's Geneva Auto Show.

Active High Beam Control works via a camera that sits beside the rear-view mirror -- the same camera that's used by Volvo's brake-assist system. When a car or motorcycle approaches, or when a Volvo driver is preparing to pass another vehicle, the camera notes the location of that vehicle, and shades the headlamps accordingly. According to a Volvo press release:

"The control unit relays the information to an ingenious projector module 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."

Volvo says that Active High Beam Control will debut this spring on production models of the S60, V60, and XC60 -- but as our colleagues at Motor Authority point out, the technology will only be available in Europe. U.S. shoppers will have to wait.


Assuming that Active High Beam Control works as Volvo says, it could be a very attractive safety feature for shoppers. It may not be enough to woo customers who've never considered a Volvo before, but for those on the fence, it might sway their decision.

It's typical of Volvo's development approach these days: adding features bit by bit to enhance the overall safety of its vehicles. Back in December, Volvo's head of government affairs, Anders Eugensson, said"Our vision is that no one is killed or injured in a new Volvo by 2020".

Whether or not Volvo can meet that goal remains to be seen. But as far as marketing is concerned, it's a great position that could differentiate Volvo from the rest of the pack. 

Will it help Volvo's flagging sales? We'll keep you posted.

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