Semi-autonomous Driving In The New Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Autonomous driving is a technology which is rapidly growing in the automotive industry. On the road today, we have semi-autonomous driving vehicles which are able to accelerate, brake and steer, for short periods of time, without any human input. One doesn’t even need to turn to the upper echelon of motoring to find this sort of technology as vehicles such as the Volvo S90 and BMW 5 Series are able to tootle along all by themselves.
Even Though fully autonomous driving is still a way off for mainstream car makers, more and more vehicle manufacturers are spending increasing amounts of money and time developing technologies this field, making their cars more intelligent and less dependent on the driver. The Mercedes-Benz S-Class has always stood at the forefront of automotive technological advancements, so the updated S-Class promises to be a bit of a spaceship, due in South Africa later this year.
Mercedes-Benz claim that the updated S-Class will be able to support its driver considerably better than all systems which have been available to date, but whether this means all systems currently on the market, such as Volvo’s Pilot Assist or just Mercedes-Benz’s systems remains a mystery. Anyway, let’s take a look at the details of Mercedes Semi-Autonomous driving systems.
Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC
This system uses the route ahead to increase or decrease speed. For example, if the vehicle detects a bend, junction, roundabout or toll both in its path, it will slow the vehicle down accordingly.
The S-Class will also use information from the driver’s navigation input. If the route informs the driver to leave a highway and the car is in the slow lane, the vehicle will automatically reduce speed for the off-ramp. This also applies to junctions.
Active Lane Change Assist
Hitting the Indicator stalk when driving at speeds between 80 – 180 km/h actives this system. The vehicle’s sensors use the next 10 seconds to check all the vehicle safety zones and whether or not the relevant lane is clear. It also monitors the speed of other vehicles to see that all is ok, and if so, the S-Class will change lanes.
Active Speed Limit Assist
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class will pick up on road signs and temporary speed limit signs such as one would find when approaching road works. It also knows recorded limits from the navigation system.
Following vehicles in a tailback
This feature is perfect for the road users in Johannesburg. The new S-Class is able to stop and then restart and follow vehicles in traffic if the stops are shorter than 30 seconds. No more on and off the brake and accelerator in stop/start traffic, then!
Active Emergency Stop Assist
One to put your mind at ease if you are an easy sleeper! If the S-Class detects no response from the driver while using Active Steering Assist, the vehicle prompts the driver to take action. If no action is taken ( because you are dreaming peacefully or in a medical emergency) the vehicle will then slowly bring itself to a stop in its current lane. Once stopped, the parking brake is engaged, Mercedes-Benz Emergency Call System is activated and the doors are unlocked.
Active Brake Assist & Evasive Steering Assist
This features aids the driver in avoiding collisions with other vehicles and pedestrians. It first starts with warning the driver if there is adequate distance to do so. If not, the vehicle will apply the brakes.
Further to this, Evasive Steering Assist will support the driver and apply extra steering torque when taking evasive action because a pedestrian is in the vehicle danger zone. The vehicle will then stabilize itself after the maneuver has taken place.
Active Keep Lane Assist
Between speeds of 60 and 200 km/h, the S-Class will warn the driver via vibrations if the vehicle drifts out of its lane and can apply vehicle brakes on one side to bring the driver back into its lane. If this happens on a road with broken white lines, the vehicle will only take action if there is a chance of collision with another vehicle (for all you lazy non indicator types).
Active Blind Spot Assist
A system found on many new vehicles today and similar to that above – the Mercedes-Benz S-Class will apply brakes on one side of the vehicle to avoid an impending side collision.
Traffic Sign Assist
This system, which works along with Active Speed Limit Assist using image recognition and information from the road map in the navigation system, displays road signs on the instrument cluster.
It will bring up any overtaking restrictions for the route, such as zebra crossings, and will provide a warning if pedestrians are found in said crossing. “No entry” signs are also recognized and the vehicle will prompt you to check your direction of travel.
This is basically talking cars! A technology first seen in the form of Volvo’s Vehicle-to-vehicle communication, if a vehicle ahead has detected a hazardous condition, this information is then relayed back to other vehicles to provide an early warning. A voice warning may also be given to the driver depending on the situation.
Developers are currently trying to get this system in use with as many vehicle manufacturers as possible, thus creating a very effective system. A car plus kit will also be available for drivers whose vehicles do not support Car-to-X so they can also benefit from this system.
Active Parking Assist
Cars that park themselves are no longer a big surprise, and this system is very similar to others. The S-Class can also apply braking automatically when parking if it has noticed a hazard or possible collision.
Remote Parking Assist
A system we first witnessed on the new BMW 5 Series, the S-Class can now be parked into spaces or even driven out of spaces when the driver is outside the vehicle. The BMW 5 Series uses the vehicle key for this, whereas the Mercedes system will be controlled using an app on a smartphone.
The major benefit of this is being able to park the vehicle in tight spaces without having the issue of the driver trying to exit the vehicle afterwards. This system also works well if the driver has been parked in. The system will allow manoeuvrability of the vehicle by up to 15 metres and will also avoid obstacles, for those who were never good at R/C cars as a child or adult.
So there you have it, another step in the right direction for autonomous driving for Mercedes-Benz. No news yet on whether these features will be standard or optional extras, but if you can afford an S-Class, chances are it won’t matter much either way.