When you typically think of luxury car features, do you envision rich leather seating and extravagant trim? Advanced cruise control and intelligent self-parking? Whatever you’re imagining, I’m betting “dim my headlights so I don’t blind other people” isn’t it.
But not only has BMW used its “High Beam Assistant” as an upsell for well over a decade, it’s also charging drivers extra to unlock the safety feature that’s already built into their cars — by buying it as an over-the-air software update.
Apparently, this has been going on for nearly two years, but Car Magazine editor Jake Groves brought it to my attention for the first time this week in this viral tweet:
For reference, this is the original pop up message I got on the system – couldn’t snap it last night as I was mid-drive. BMW store says it’s £160 for “unlimited” use… pic.twitter.com/zLbkuktEwV— Jake Groves (@_jakegroves) March 25, 2021
Let’s forget the price for a moment, because that’s not what infuriates me. (In the grand scheme of things, £160 isn’t a huge amount for your average BMW buyer to spend.) It’s that the rest of us are depending on BMW drivers being such good citizens that they’ll spend their own money to avoid showing off the power of their blazing headlights, all because a car company locked a perfectly good public safety feature behind a digital paywall.
Perhaps there should be a law about this? Don’t expect the US to move on that anytime soon, though; adaptive beam headlights are actually still illegal in the United States, while we wait for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to issue a final decision on whether to even allow them, much less encourage their use. That ruling was supposed to come last year. I’ve asked the NHTSA whether there’s been any movement, and I’ll let you know what I hear.