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Every driver—even those with the prosperity to own Mercedes-Benz’s S-class flagship—makes an occasional mistake at the wheel. To improve the likelihood that an error won’t result in personal injury or death, Mercedes created its Intelligent Drive (ID) initiative. ID gives the car resources that help it compensate for the driver’s inevitable lapses. It works by providing the S-class with human-like vision—sensors and cameras that assess what lies not only ahead but also to the side and rear of the vehicle—along with brains in the form of computing power and authority over steering, accelerating, and braking functions. The net result is a car capable of both avoiding collisions (active safety) and mitigating the chance of serious injury in the event an accident cannot be avoided (passive safety).
With each new generation, Mercedes-Benz advances the ID cause another step closer to the fully autonomous automobile—the progression of Benz’s flagship technologies can be witnessed here. To maintain the S-class’s status as the unchallenged leader in automotive safety, the 222-series 2014 model scheduled for sale in the latter half of 2013 is equipped with ten significant new or improved ID functions.
An awesome sensor array is required to support these advancements. There are six radar units—three looking forward, three looking back—a total of seven cameras looking in every direction, and twelve ultrasonic parking-aid sensors. Other steering, braking, and vehicle-dynamics sensors keep track of driver inputs and exactly how the car is reacting. A new FlexRay high-speed, high-data-rate communications bus allows this network to inform various control and command computers via copper wires and fiber optic cables.
The 2014 S-class is the world’s first automobile to use only Light Emitting Diode (LED) illumination technology. More than 190 LEDs provide all interior, headlamp, taillamp, and turn-signal illumination. These lamps not only consume only a quarter of the power of conventional headlamps, their service life usually exceeds that of the car. Building on the Adaptive Highbeam Assist system introduced in 2009, Adaptive Highbeam Assist Plus automatically adjusts low-beam range to best suit the driving situation. An internal mask moves into position to greatly diminish glare seen by traffic ahead or to the side while the remainder of the road ahead is well illuminated.
A new beltbag rear-seat system greatly enhances the restraint and protection provided for S-class outboard rear occupants. During entry, the buckle temporarily rises 2.8 inches and is illuminated for more convenient sighting and latching. After the lap and shoulder belt is attached, the buckle automatically retracts to remove slack. If an imminent collision is sensed, a Pre-Safe feature retracts the buckle an additional 1.6 inches to add additional restraint tension. To facilitate occupants’ exit after an accident, the buckle automatically rises to its normal location following an accident. In the event of a severe frontal impact, a gas generator is triggered to inflate the rear belt bags, increasing their width by a factor of three to spread restraint forces over a much larger portion of the occupants’ torsos, greatly reducing the chance of injury.
Distronic Plus now includes a steering-assist feature that helps the driver avoid unintended lane changes during long and uneventful stretches of highway cruising. It works up to 124 mph and allows the S-class to track the car ahead at a safe distance as long as the driver’s hands remain in contact with the steering wheel. If that contact is interrupted, a visual warning is provided followed in a few seconds by system deactivation. When necessary, this feature also can brake the vehicle at a deceleration rate of up to 0.5 g. In the event another vehicle infringes on the S-class’s lane of travel, prompt evasive action is taken.
The Active Lane-Keeping Assist is a close ally of Distronic Plus, and is now able to sense and react to broken pavement marking lines. Step one: The steering wheel is shaken to alert the driver. Step two: One side of the brakes are momentarily applied to automatically steer the car back toward the center of the lane. This system works between 37 and 124 mph to avoid a collision with oncoming traffic.
Attention Assist, which senses driver inattention or drowsiness and illuminates a coffee-cup alert icon, now works over an expanded (37 to 124 mph) speed range. In addition, it’s now possible to adjust the system’s sensitivity to aid drivers who begin a journey in a tired state. Also, the navigation system will automatically point out service areas within range when a break from driving is suggested.
Active Parking Assist is now capable of identifying and using perpendicular as well as parallel parking spaces. In addition, it’s able to steer and brake the car automatically while exiting a parking space.
Brake Assist Plus will now respond to a pedestrian in the path ahead by first warning the driver with visible and audible signals before automatically applying the brakes (by means of a related system called Pre-Safe Brake) to avoid an accident. A collision can be avoided up to a speed of 31 mph and the system is active up to 45 mph. Cross-Traffic Assist serves as the car’s peripheral vision to identify traffic approaching from the side at an intersection. It works with Brake Assist Plus to apply full brake force when necessary to avoid a collision.
Pre-Safe Impulse automatically tensions front seat belts when a rear impact is sensed by radar detectors. This greatly reduces the chance of whiplash injury.
Pre-Safe Plus increases brake system pressure if the driver’s foot is on the brake pedal during a rear collision to make sure that the car doesn’t roll forward into a second impact.
Night View Assist Plus is the third generation of the night-vision system that provides an image in the instrument cluster of pedestrians or animals in the road ahead. A module in the headlamps spotlights pedestrians in the warning zone to alert them to the car nearing their position. Use of infrared sensors enables detecting pedestrians more than 500 feet ahead and animals up to 330 feet in the distance.