STUTTGART -- Mercedes-Benz will introduce a new suite of advanced safety and autonomous driving features on the redesigned E-class sedan next spring.
Calling the new features “real life safety,” Mercedes-Benz executives said Tuesday the intelligent and safety systems bring its vehicles closer to accident-free and autonomous driving.
The technologies planned for the fifth-generation E class were previewed here Tuesday.
The E class that goes on sale in the U.S. makes a further leap with technologies introduced in fall 2013 on the redesigned S-class sedan and were heralded as years ahead of the industry. The E class is the automaker’s third best-selling model line in the U.S. after the C class and M class.
The new advances -- dubbed Intelligent Drive next Level -- include systems to protect an occupant’s ears and hearing during a crash, steering assistance to outmaneuver an obstacle or avoid an accident, and safety protection that pushes the driver and front seat passenger away from the doors during a side impact.
Mercedes-Benz is also introducing a smartphone key and the ability to park the E class in parallel and perpendicular spaces also using a smartphone.
“We are taking a further major step along the road to autonomous and connected driving. The innovations that will be available for the future E-class take safety, stress relief, and comfort to a new level,”said Thomas Weber, head of Mercedes-Benz Cars research and development.
“Mercedes-Benz is underlining its leading position as a safety pioneer,” Weber said.
Michael Hafner, director of advanced drive assistance systems and active safety for Mercedes-Benz, said the new features are also upgradable as technology advances -- something that’s not feasible today.
“The new architecture is designed as an open system to integrate future developments and future innovations,” including advances in autonomous driving, Hafner said. “The central nervous system enables ongoing optimizations with new and further developed assistance and safety technology.”
That means the upgrades can be made anytime during the vehicle’s lifecycle.
Mercedes-Benz has developed better sensors and improved the functionality of its cameras and radar, Hafner added.
Highlights of the Driver Assistance Package for the next-generation E-class:
- An upgraded Intelligent Drive package of technologies: Using the Distance Pilot Distronic system and at speeds up to 124 mph (200 km/h), the car can automatically maintain a safe distance from the car in front, provide steering assistance around bends and even brake. The previous generation tracked only the car in front, the new system can see “where the swarm goes,” Hafner said.
It uses a new generation of stereo cameras behind the windshield and new radar sensors to read road markings.
At speeds up to 81 mph (130 km/h), Steering Pilot can work even if lane or road markings aren’t clear. Previously, the system worked at speeds below 50 mph (80 km/h) Hafner said.
- Speed Limit Pilot: It works with the car’s communications and entertainment system and can “autonomously adjust the vehicle's speed in response to camera-detected speed limits or speed limits logged in the navigation system,” Mercedes said.
- Active Brake Assist: The system has been updated and can warn the driver of an imminent crash, give braking assistance if suddenly needed and also automatically apply the brakes in an emergency. The system also detects vehicles that are stopping or stationary, crossing traffic at intersections, pedestrians and the tail end of a traffic jam.
- Evasive Steering Assist: The new systems adds “precisely calculated steering torque,” when it senses a driver making an evasive maneuver. Mercedes says the feature helps movement of the steering wheel so the driver can avoid hitting a pedestrian and straighten the vehicle so it can safely pass.
- Remote Parking Pilot: Using a smartphone app, the vehicle can be moved in and out of tight parking spaces and garages. The driver's smartphone must be within 10 feet of the vehicle and the driver must have the car key or the remote system won’t work. The app will ask the driver for approval to move the vehicle. The driver can park the car in parallel or perpendicular parking spaces and in and out of a garage.
- Car-to-X Communication: Mercedes-Benz says it was the first car company to launch car-to-car networking in 2013. The system has now been fully integrated and information can be transmitted via a module with a SIM card in the vehicle that transmits road conditions ahead to Daimler’s backend service, said Hafner. The information can then be relayed to a radio station or traffic alert system, Hafner said. Mercedes boasts it “can effectively allow the driver to see around corners or through obstacles.”
- Digital Car Key: The driver’s smartphone can be used as a vehicle key. A driver holds the phone near the door handle. Personal options such as seat and mirror settings can also be made via smartphone. The system uses near-field communication technology that can exchange data via radio signals over a short distance. It has been used to exchange data between smartphones and tablets.
- Pre-Safe Impulse Side: If an unavoidable side collision is detected, the air chambers in the backrest side bolsters inflate rapidly, moving front-seat occupants sideways and away the door.
- Pre-Safe Sound: The system protects occupants’ ears from the noise of a collision. The stapedius muscle in ears contracts when there is a loud noise, giving “greater protection against high sound pressures,” said Mercedes.
If sensors and radar determine there is a risk of a collision, in half a second the vehicle will put out a sound, similar to pink noise like the sound of wave crashing. The noise triggers the stapedius muscle, lessening discomfort and ear damage, said Wilfried Bullinger, a passive-safety engineer.
Intelligent Drive next Level
Executives and engineers underlined that the company’s Intelligent Drive next Level is semi-automated and drivers have to keep their hands on the steering wheel. The new E class will also have a finger pad control for various vehicle functions mounted on the steering wheel, but details weren’t given.
Mercedes-Benz hasn’t determined yet how to package or price the systems that will be options, Hafner said. All of these new systems will be available in the U.S., he said.
The innovations will also be available on the S class when it is freshened in the spring of 2017, Hafner said.
Intelligent Drive was first available on the 2014 S-class sedan as a $2,800 option and the features migrated to the E class, the redesigned C class and to crossovers such as the GLE when they were updated.