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Gentex Corporation

SmartBeam Headlamp Dimming Microelectronics Solution

Vehicle owners and operators, as well as manufacturers, have been in search of a cost effective solution to the challenge of automatically dimming headlamps in the face of on-coming traffic, as well as when following. With a reliable solution came the promise of both a more comfortable driving experience, as well as safer vehicle operation and fewer vehicular accidents and injuries. The challenge was and always has been the ability to identify the tens of thousands of possible light images (such as taillights, headlamps and reflecting signs) and to accurately and quickly make the proper adjustment, reacting to what matters and nothing else.

The system senses reflective light sources, controlling for ambient light. Depending on the kind of headlamp it controls, it can use “theater dimming” or instant on – off as appropriate. The system is controlled by Gentex-written software and is intelligent in comparing detected light with 50,000 categorized light reflections in its database. It senses both intensity and color and has a refresh rate of 5 cps, meaning that at 70 mph it senses once every 18 feet. The system has a Gentex-manufactured camera-on-a-chip mounted forward of the interior rearview mirror. This differentiates it from all prior sensor based efforts to resolve the challenge. Proprietary in-house manufacturing processes enable the product to be produced at a cost that is attractive to OEMs, dealers, and car buyers.

Gentex selected this particular problem to solve, consistent with their long record of success at innovation, because it met important screening criteria for them. These included a high customer demand (millions of units); consistent with core competence in microelectronics; high degree of proprietary intellectual property content; ability to reach a low price point that would enable OEM profits with wide acceptance; amenability to high volume manufacture; and strategic relevance, i.e. increased penetration in the core competence of auto-dimming devices.

In 2004 this product was available on both the new Cadillac STS and Jeep Grand Cherokee, with adoption on several new vehicles for 2005 – 2007 ahead.