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Auto high beams set to spread

Headlights of the all-new BMW 7 Series coming later this year.

We've already seen highbeam controls migrate from the floor to the turn-signal stalk, a smart move on the ergonomic front that began in the 1970s.

Now there are automatic headlight systems that will control the 'brights', as they are known in the USA, without the driver having to worry about the right moment to switch back to lowbeam.

Just as things like automatic headlamps and wipers were once an exotic trinket, and even remote central locking was an outrageous extravagance, automatic highbeams will come quickly in the next few years.

They can be triggered by one of the forward-facing sensors used for things like automatic braking and the latest LED headlamp packages mean there will be less distinction between low and highbeams.

Some already allow high beam for roadside illumination with a lowbeam cut-off to prevent dazzling of oncoming cars.

The first of these systems are fitted to flagship cars from the Big Three German luxury brands, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz

Not surprisingly, the first of these systems are fitted to flagship cars from the Big Three German luxury brands, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. It's BMW and Audi which are also moving quickly into lasers for highbeam lamps.

"You don't have to do anything. You just leave highbeam on all the time and let the car decide when to dip," says Tim Michaelsen, product manager at BMW Australia for the 5-6-7 Series cars.

BMW has its system in the latest 6 Series and it will also be fitted to the all-new 7 Series later this year. Benz uses it for S-Class models.

"It's a major safety advance. It means you have maximum brightness all the time, without dazzling oncoming traffic."