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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
April 6, 2005

Cadillac's Intellibeam
by Jim Kerr

Cadillac has led other car makes with many innovations over the years. From being the first manufacturer to install electric engine starters way back in 1912, to synchro-mesh manual transmissions in its 1929 models and infrared night vision in 2000, technology limits have been pushed further forward. Now, Cadillac has introduced another first: Intellibeam.

Intellibeam, an option on the 2005 Cadillac STS, is a new way of controlling high-beam headlamps. The concept is not new. In 1952, Cadillac introduced the Autronic Eye system, which used a dash-mounted sensor to automatically dim the high beam headlamps for oncoming traffic. Intellibeam does this too, but in a much more sophisticated way.

Using a small light-sensing chip that is able to detect light similar to the way the human eye does, Intellibeam will turn off the high beam headlamps as oncoming traffic approaches. Rather than switching directly from high-beam to low-beam operation, the Intellibeam system gradually dims the high beams as approaching vehicles get closer. The high beam indicator on the dash shows they are either on or off, but the actual operation of the high beams provides gradual dimming or increases in illumination.

This is a great safety feature. Normally, when headlamps are dimmed from high beam to low beam, there is a period of time when the space between the two vehicles is dark and hard to see. Intellibeam provides maximum illumination all the time, eliminating these difficult areas.

The Intellibeam's digital light sensor and electronics are located in a module mounted on the back side of the interior rear view mirror. The light sensor analyzes the light colour, intensity and movement to distinguish between vehicle lights and other light sources along the roadside. This was a problem with earlier automatic dimming systems, which could be triggered by street or yard lights, or illuminated signs, causing the high beams to flash off and on. Intellibeam is designed to ignore non-vehicular light sources.

The Intellibeam module controls a high-beam headlamp driver module. This module looks just like a relay, but is a solid-state device that uses pulse width modulation - a rapid on/off switching of the voltage on a circuit -- to control the output to the headlamp filament. Typically, the voltage is switched from battery voltage or charging system voltage to zero volts several times a second. Some headlamp modules I have tested will do this at 128 cycles per second! By controlling the on time in relationship to the off time, the average voltage of circuit is regulated. For example, if the high voltage is 12 volts and the low is zero, and the on time is equal for both, the average voltage would be six volts. If the high voltage time was longer than the zero voltage time, then the average would be higher.

Many automotive systems, such as EGR, canister purge and interior lamp dimming, use pulse width modulation to control their operation.

Intellibeam detects tail lights as well as headlamps. As another vehicle passes and the red tail lights come into view, the Intellibeam high beams are immediately switched to low-beam operation. As the vehicle pulls further away, the high beams gradually brighten. If the vehicle in front turns off on another road, the Intellibeam high beams will rapidly increase to full illumination.

With Intellibeam, drivers can forget to dim their high beams, and other drivers aren't blinded. However, there are a few situations when driver control may be needed. If the windshield is dirty, the light sensor can't properly monitor other light sources. The driver may need to manually dim the lights. Similarly, if the oncoming vehicle's lights are covered in ice or snow or there is road spray, the lights may not be recognized by the Intellibeam sensor.

I couldn't even begin to count the number of times I have been temporarily blinded by oncoming drivers that failed to dim their headlamps. Similarly, I have also been guilty of forgetting this on more than one occasion. Intellibeam helps protect other driver's night vision, but of equal importance, it provides the maximum light on the road at all times so night driving is safer. Keep those innovations coming, Cadillac.

Jim Kerr is a master automotive mechanic and teaches automotive technology. He has been writing automotive articles for fifteen years for newspapers and magazines in Canada and the United States, and is a member of the Automotive Journalist's Association of Canada (AJAC).
http://www.canadiandriver.com/articles/jk/050406.htm
 

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That's pretty cool. I wish I could afford a cadillac with all those fancy features.
 

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Awesome, that makes much more sence then night vision does. Another first for GM :D
 

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This is one feature every car should have. This is a huge improvement to driving at night. HID and Xenon lamps are great when you are driving not when you approach a inconsiderate driver with his high beams on. Idiot proofing done right.
 

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How about headlights that turn as the car turns AND intellibeam together?? That would be cool :D

I think STS has auto-levelling headlights for Euro-spec STSs, so as the car reaches an incline, the lights angle downward so they don't blind on-coming traffic.
 

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Sure, it takes responsibility away from the driver, but reading about this particular concept makes it more worth while. I am definately all for this system on Cadillacs. And I would like to see this feature across GM's entire line like OnStar already is. If this proves to be an excellent safety feature, then GM should make it available on all their cars.

Way to go, Cadillac. You're still the Standard of the World, in more ways than one.
 

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Just wait till you run out of warranty and it breaks then how cool will that be? this is the biggest problem that I see with all this cool technology we are working with, will people want to fix it or trade it ? is that the plan ? up the car sales buy making them to hard and expensive to fix?
 
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