Mercedes sees safety technology as its edge
DETROIT -- A major weapon in Mercedes-Benz's ambitious 2013 product-launch schedule is an array of safety and convenience technology called Intelligent Drive, which harnesses all the sensors and controls in a Mercedes vehicle.
Mercedes will add functions -- such as automatically keeping a car centered in a traffic lane or monitoring driver alertness and suggesting where to take a break -- in the freshened E class that goes on sale in May.
The redesigned S-class flagship debuting in late September will have more Intelligent Drive features.
Even the brand's new entry-level CLA car, also due in September, will have as standard equipment Collision Prevention Assist, which warns of a potential crash and will boost braking to avoid it.
"Intelligent Drive is an umbrella term for 36 separate technologies and 11 new or updated ones," Bart Herring, Mercedes' top U.S. product planner, said during a meeting with Automotive News staff members. "We see it as something that differentiates the Mercedes brand."
Intelligent Drive makes use of all the sensors and controls in a Mercedes vehicle -- from stereo cameras and ultrasound to short- medium- and long-range radar -- and uses software to integrate them into new convenience and safety features.
An updated Attention Assist feature, for example, now is linked to the car's navigation system and adds an automatic "sensitive" mode when it senses the driver is tiring. Using navigation system data, it might suggest a stop at an exit that has the driver's favorite coffee shop or fuel brand.
Mercedes offers two levels of braking assistance. The base level offers a warning, but the driver must touch the brake pedal before the system assist. The higher level will brake to a stop automatically if it detects a pedestrian or obstruction, even if the driver ignores the warning.
The updated Distronic Plus feature not only reads lane markers and warns drivers if the car is about to drift out of the lane but now actively adds steering torque to keep the car centered in the lane on straight and gently bending roads.
"We're 70 to 80 percent of the way to autonomous driving" on vehicle hardware, Herring said. That hardest remaining part, he said, is road infrastructure.
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