In the summer time people don’t really want to read about complex subjects. They are thinking of going to the beach, climbing mountains or sailing or fishing, and thought of inventing something of high technology or even low technology probably is burdensome. So I wrote about the issues involving the automobile headlight high beam/low beam issue.

I was getting tired and very annoyed of oncoming high beams at night especially in the driving rain (no pun intended) the last weekend. In conjunction of my mild criticism on American technology culture of developing devices and systems way ahead of needs, and/or of highly questionable value, I brought out the case of high beam control issue, which seems to be a rather serious safety issue and yet probably solvable with relatively low or mundane technology.

My question was “why don’t we improve our daily life before we spend billions on such things as space travel?” I also implied that improving our lives by even low grades of technology would open up more jobs and reduce our societal income inequality.

Well, no sooner had the newspapers printed this column then I started receiving emails from all over the country. So far more than any other topic I have written on. I got more email comments from our readers on the high beam issue. I am overwhelmed. I then started to slog to read these emails, and lo and behold I have learned a lot about the headlight dimming system, which I thought was nothing more than a simple photocell driving a switch.

First of all, the large number of email comments from readers all indicated their deep concern, irritation and some anger about the high-beam dimming system or lack thereof. Dear readers, it isn’t that simple. So here is what I learned in a short two days from our readers:

All readers who wrote in are concerned with and irritated by the haphazard systems and regulations that are not clear and protective of safety.

There doesn’t seem any standard regulation to determine the height of the headlights from the ground. Most new autos sold now have shifted to the SUV with a higher ground height of the headlights, while sedans would have a lower mounting height of headlights. I do not know any safety regulations governing the ground height of headlights. But, it would make so much sense if the height of the headlights were regulated.

The proliferation of so-called driving lights mounted lower or molded in with the front bumper further complicates the situation. Driving lights have little or no regulation governing their power/location/direction and are not connected to the high beam/low beam switch. While an oncoming driver may switch his/her high beam to low, the driving lights stay on brightly lit with broad beam, thus making switching to low beam literally ineffective.

The entire issue is sort of comical in that I suffer from the bright lights of the oncoming high beams independent of if I switch my high-beam off or not.

Ideally, I would like to have the high beam of the oncoming traffic switch to low when my car’s receptor detects excessive intensity of light from the oncoming auto. I and others traditionally do this by flashing the high beam momentarily to let him/her know that they have high beam on and we can’t see very well. Sometimes they don’t notice, and sometimes they are oblivious. And, damn it, sometimes they turn on the high beam just to annoy us. In these cases, their headlight positions were either misaligned like high beams, or purposely set at a higher position on pickup trucks.

Is it for some reason illegal to even conceive the wireless alert system, with which my car could signal the oncoming car to switch to low beam? We do this my flashing our high beam. Why can’t this signal system be considered illegal? I believe this is an ultimate solution.

I received an email from a retired policeman, Lou Chatel (unknown town) who wrote:

“I enjoyed your article on high beams and share your thoughts. There was a sport model from Lincoln that had the high beam sensors and I loved it. I haven't seen or heard of any for years. I am a retired police officer with lots of accident investigation experience. With regards to high/low beams, I believe that all vehicles should have high beams as the default and switch to low for oncoming traffic. High beams offer considerable more light than low beams, which could save lives. I know from riding with others, many people forget to use high beams and seem to only remember to use them when warning others about speed traps ahead.”

I believe this is a view from the police vehicle.

Overall conclusion of this subject is that the driving public had been aware of this problem for a very long time — say 70 years? Yet our government’s safety agency never took any action for some reason.

I thank you many readers for writing in with your opinion. I must say I have been very impressed with the unanimity of their opinions that high/low beam control is very necessary, and we need it. Recent new autos do come equipped with automatic dimming features that seem to work well, readers say. My question is, why weren’t they available all the time for 70 years?

It isn’t a high-tech system. It is just our willingness to improve our life by technology and rewrite our laws. I would like to see us work hard to improve our lives instead of the highfalutin high-tech stuff that costs billions of dollars and benefits very few. Namely Democratization of American Technology!

Shintaro "Sam" Asano was named by MIT in 2011 as one of the top 10 most influential inventors of the 20th century. He lives on the seacoast of New Hampshire with his dog Sophie. You can write to Sam at sasano@americaninventioninstitute