Mercedes Benz Adaptive High Beam Assist: New Feature or Old News?

What does this 2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 4matic sedan have in common with this 1960 Cadillac convertible? They both have an automatic headlight dimming system! Mercedes-Benz made the Adaptive High Bean Assist feature available on the ‘new body style’ E class cars in 2010. The systems essentially keeps an eye on the road ahead of you at night, while you’re driving with your high beams on a desolate road, the car can sense the headlights of oncoming traffic up ahead and automatically dim the headlamps as not to bother the driver of the oncoming car.

The technology Mercedes-Benz uses is a sensor embedded in the top of the windshield. It’s considered a safety feature by Mercedes-Benz, as it allows you to have the best, brightest lights blazing when appropriate, giving you a commanding view of the road, even at night to keep you safe. One might also consider it a convenience feature, as you don’t constantly have to adjust your high beams as oncoming traffic appears. Learn more about the Mercedes-Benz Adaptive High Beam Assist feature on the E class HERE at MBUSA.com.

Notice the light sensor on the dash of the 1960 Cadillac.

What’s funny is that a similar system was available on a number of American made vehicles, most notably, Cadillacs beginning in the mid 1950s. The red 1960 Cadillac convertible pictured here was at Lake Country Classics in Minneapolis when I visited that shop last week. Bruce Kelly, proprietor of Lake Country Classics and vintage Mercedes-Benz SL authority generally works on and restores Mercedes-Benz vehicles, the occasional Jaguar, but this time he had a customer’s 1960 Cadillac convertible on hand.

I saw this thing sticking up on the dash of the Cadillac and I asked him what it was for. Bruce explained to me that it was the sensor for the automatic high beam adjustment. When it senses the headlights of an oncoming car it automatically adjusts your high beams back down to the regular headlight setting… on a 1960 Cadillac, it was available earlier than that, in the mid 1950s.

Of course, the technology Mercedes-Benz employs for the Adaptive High Beam Assist feature is far more advanced that what Cadillac was using 50 years ago. The modern Mercedes-Benz system works better, more efficiently, more quickly and more reliably than the old Caddy system, but it’s interesting to know that the idea of not having to worry about blinding oncoming drivers at night with your high beams was thought about and essentially ‘solved’ more than 50 years ago in Detroit.

There is always something to see and learn when you visit Bruce at Lake Country Classics in Minneapolis, it’s a bit off the beaten path, but if you can find it, it’s worth a visit. This 1957 Mercedes-Benz 190SL was parked next to the Cadillac when I arrived last week. The 190 is currently for sale on eBay… with its $35,000 reserve price already reached with about 5 days left in the auction.

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