It was eventually bound to happen. Don't read further if you're afraid of a dystopian, robot-led future. Cars are thinking now, and they can actually figure out how to use high beams. Actually, they can use their high-beams indefinitely, now, without ever producing glare... Or, at least, that's what Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW want you to think. In actuality, I've never seen anything of the sort first-hand. I can't answer to how well the cars' headlights can predict the bumps on the road ahead and adjust accordingly, so I'm not sold on the promise of never, ever creating any glare.
But, it's true, according to them. The car will sense your presence and dim the high-beams for just the sliver of illuminated space where you are, with 1,000,000 individually moving mirrors. Oh, yeah, don't worry about cost. They haven't announced the price of it, but if you have to ask, well, it's "more than you can afford, pal."
Also don't worry about weight, or what happens when one of the tiny motors in the million mirrors (per headlight) goes wrong.
Basically, their vision, in the prototype phase, was to never have to adjust the high beams, with a computer doing it automatically, by having a proverbial "cut-out" of light only around your car, your head, or your dog's head or whatever other object shouldn't be illuminated.
Then, as these things sometimes do, things became even more complicated. The engineers asked themselves "why don't we paint the roads with light, to replace road-side road signs?" Brilliant idea, in actuality. Cars can now sense and predict roads better than most actual human drivers. Cars will now paint road signs directly onto the road, like Japan does, but with headlights with millions of mirrors and probably several thousand dollars worth of computers.
All of this makes me wonder about some things. Firstly, will this actually have any huge influence on crash statistics? I'm certainly curious about what will happen when these lights become more mainstream. Will people be able to drive more safely at night? Will that 2003 Toyota Echo's owner finally replace his car with one that turns the lights on automatically, since the owner can't be bothered, and drives home with no headlights on? Will it become mandatory if the safety analysts start to say that our current headlights are archaic and dim-witted?
Secondly, is this affordable? We all know that people will always still crash. You can give people a self-driving car, eventually someone will find a way to cause it to crash. When these High-Definition Lights break, just what is the cost to repair it? What happens when the electric motor fails? Anyone with a high-mileage car older than 2004 will likely know about the problems with motors and resistors, and the problems they can cause. Ask them to turn their blower motor speed control dial to every speed, see if every speed still works.
And, thirdly, if everyone will drive everywhere with high beams, I certainly hope that these ultra-intelligent lights will avoid shining into our houses. We've got to sleep. We've got to get our rest for when Skynet truly does take over. I think the robots will win very, very easily... Especially with the 2006 Honda Civic sedan driving around with high beams on 24/7, and the 2003 Toyota Highlander driving at midnight without any lights on at all. Cars being smarter than some people nowadays is no longer a dream, nor a myth. In the meantime, I'll buy stocks in EMP weapons to try to fight the robots.
For more reading on the topic, here's Mercedes-Benz's official website: https://www.mercedes-benz.com/en/mercedes-benz/innovation/let-there-be-light-the-led-headlamps-of-the-future-e-class/
Note: that's for the outdated system. The new one is even more advanced.
Drew Geier is a Canadian petrolhead whose main mission is to make motoring accessible, enjoyable, and affordable well into the future, by improving the art, hobby and lifestyle of motoring. He builds cars, and he writes about other builds. He's built a Subaru WRX and is building a Honda Civic EK.