Cars with Intelligent High-Beams

Want to know what’s on the road ahead in auto technology? Let these automatic head lamps shine a little light on the subject. New intelligent high-beams, invented by Gentex, are currently available on this year’s Jeep Grand Cherokee and selected Chrysler and Jeep vehicles will be sporting the system in 2006.

SmartBeam controls your headlights. It takes some complex equipment to complete such a simple task, and maybe that’s why they’re called SmartBeams. (BMW prefers to call them High-Beam Assist as they introduce the technology in Europe later this year.) The system is powered by a complementary metal oxide semi-conductor (CMOS) camera. If you’ve never heard of CMOS before today, it’s a system programmed to behave like the human eye and it was originally designed for space exploration. It’s not exactly new technology, it’s just technology used in a new way. Forget about using them in deep space; let’s see what SmartBeams can do at 95mph on a two-lane road at night. I mean 50mph.

Attached to a microprocessor, the camera controls your head lights according to traffic conditions. It’s built in to the backside of your rear-view mirror, facing forward toward oncoming road. If it’s dark outside and it cannot detect another car, it clicks your beams to high. As soon as SmartBeam detects either head lights or tail lights ahead, it clicks down to your low beams. Drivers no longer need to worry about flicking the switch on and off, either failing to use high-beams or accidentally blinding on-coming traffic.

Safety experts believe increasing the use of high-beams can reduce the number of traffic fatalities by increasing vision. It would especially make the roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists who are most vulnerable at night. Because safety is a key concern in automotive design, you can expect to see this technology expanding across the automotive market in upcoming years.

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