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Toyota is developing an intelligent headlight system that is designed to help reduce pedestrian fatalities at night.

The Advanced Headlight System [AHS] allows motorists to remain on high beam at all times while driving on dark roads. It automatically blocks off sections of light to avoid blinding either oncoming traffic or vehicles directly ahead, while keeping the sides of the road illuminated.

The technology is an advanced step over current auto-highbeam systems – on cars that include the range-topping model of the new-generation Toyota Camry (pictured below) – that will automatically switch from high to main beam when vehicles approaching or ahead are detected.

The prototype system, which is currently being developed at Toyota’s R&D headquarters in Japan, is primarily being designed to save the lives of pedestrians, which Toyota say are most vulnerable at night.

AHS involves shutters in the headlamp unit that engage in specific positions depending on whether the vehicle’s rear-view-mirror-mounted camera has detected a vehicle travelling in the opposite direction or in the same lane.

If the headlights of the other vehicle are detected, the shutters move to create a temporary ‘black spot’ for that vehicle only until it has passed.

The shutters will block a different section of the headlamps to avoid dazzling a car in the same lane as soon as the camera detects tail-lights – but keeping the sides of the road and the opposite lane illuminated.

Just the sides of the road will be illuminated with high beam if there’s both a vehicle ahead and an oncoming car.

Toyota says the system will work whether the road is straight or curved.

The company admits, however, that the system can still be confused by some roadside objects and is also not sufficiently advanced yet to lower the beam or shut off light to avoid blinding pedestrians at the side of the road.

“You’re right that cameras can get caught out by the reflection of signs or guardrails,” says Toyota’s assistant manager of lighting systems, Fujiyoshi Satoshi, “[but] cameras in general have been improving very much.

“This technology has not matured yet. In the meantime our focus is on drivers. The important focus is to help drivers detect pedestrians.”

Toyota’s luxury arm, Lexus, is likely to feature the technology first when it is eventually approved for production.