Technostalgia

What Ever Became of…Automatic Hi-Beam Dimmers?

markiii 010

Last week when I was writing up the question of the high beam floor switches, it occurred to me that there was another hi-beam innovation that seems to have gone away in modern times.  I once got a pretty good deal on a car out of the Auto Trader, a 1970 Lincoln Continental, arguably quite the fancy car when it was new.  The reason I got such a deal on it was that it was in pretty rough shape, between the rust and the fact that none of the power features, whether vacuum or electrically powered, worked.  This meant that I drove the thing an hour and a half home in August in Texas with the windows up, the only breeze was from the sunroof I managed to push about halfway by hand.  One interesting feature that the car had, although non-functional like most everything else, was a little widget on the top of the driver’s side fender that looked like a little yellow cyclops eye, and when I investigated it further, it turned out to be an auto dimmer switch for the high beam headlights.  This seemed like a pretty cool idea, a sensor to detect a car coming and immediately drop your lights down!  The only thing is, I haven’t seen such a thing in modern times.  It is certainly possible that I am just out of the modern automotive demographic that equivalates to that that would have purchased such a high end car in 1970, and so am missing out on such fancy features.  But much of the other stuff that was high end on that car originally passes for base equipment now days, like the power windows, power seats, and in-dash clock.  So what gives, did those sensors not work?  Surely it can’t be that people are less lazy than they used to be!  What ever happened to automatic high beam dimmers?

Image via Hooniverse.

  • Felis_Concolor

    The detector worked fine for oncoming traffic, but overtaking/passing traffic still receive the full assault of the driver's headlights, which lessened the device's usefulness.

    There will be an analogue in the near future, as adaptive headlight and windscreen technologies are perfected and mass produced. Newer vehicles will detect oncoming and overtaking traffic, and set LCD shutters to blank out that portion of the lens which sprays photons towards the target, and adaptive glass will selectively dim – but not black out – that part of the glass through which excessive light is impinging on the driver's eyes.

    • skitter

      This day cannot come soon enough.

      • Vairship

        And I'm predicting it STILL won't work for lifted trucks…

  • TurboBrick

    That Autronic eye thing was renamed Guidematic and apparently stayed as an option on Cadillacs until 1988. Cadillac brought the system back after 20 years and is now called Intellibeam.

  • betterwrappedinbacon

    My '89 Thunderbird had automatic dimming. It had the sensor in the outward-facing side of the rear view mirror, not a sweet cyclops looking deal like that, but it was there. The problem I had was that it would turn off the high beams when they reflected off post-mounted side markers down the road as well as when other cars were approaching. I eventually just stopped using it for that reason.

    No other car I've owned has had this feature.

  • Rwcglenwaverley

    An automatic headlamp dimmer system for switching a vehicle's headlamps from high beam to low beam when lights from another vehicle are detected in front of the vehicle. To prevent spurious responses to reflected light from signs and other sources, the dimmer system includes a light detector which is responsive only to infrared light.

-->