With its new S-Class, Mercedes-Benz says it’s taking another step toward autonomous driving and the use of advance driver-assistance systems (ADAS). The company says its Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC and Active Steering Assist will be even better at helping the driver keep a safe distance and steer the vehicle. Additionally,k speed can also be automatically adjusted in bends and at intersections. Also included are Active Emergency Stop Assist and a considerably improved Active Lane Change Assist.
“The new S-Class raises Mercedes-Benz Intelligent Drive to the next level,” says Dr. Michael Hafner, head of Automated Driving and Active Safety at Mercedes-Benz. “We are approaching the goal of automated driving more purposefully and faster than many people suspect. The new S-Class will be able to support its driver considerably better than all systems that have been available to date.”
Hafner says cars that completely dispense with a driver are still a ways off. However, he says that goal could be achieved faster than anyone realizes.
“The preconditions for bringing automated driving functions onto the roads on a large scale go well beyond technical development, and include resolving legal issues in particular,” he says. Despite that, Hafner says the new S-Class will support the driver much better than other systems that are currently on the market.
According to Hafner, hardware improvements such as better cameras with a longer range are pushing automated driving in new directions. He also said a concept that Mercedes calls “sensor fusion” is behind many innovations. “Sensor fusion” is the company’s description of the increasingly intelligent combinations of individual systems that work together under the hood to make for a better driving experience.
Another factor pushing innovation ahead is the years of experience Mercedes ADAS has in the field of automated driving, especially when it comes to programming software for assistance functions.
“We have always done this work in-house,” Hafner says. “Because of that, we are able to implement new ideas quickly.”
As an automotive safety pioneer, Mercedes-Benz does more in-depth research in this field than any other automobile brand, Hafner says. And because it’s part of the Daimler group, the company benefits from the know-how and experience of Daimler’s commercial vehicle divisions: Daimler Trucks, Daimler Buses and Mercedes-Benz Vans.
“After all, autonomous driving will not just revolutionize car traffic, but mobility as a whole, and naturally our commercial vehicle colleagues are also on the case,” says Hafner. He cited as an example the Mercedes-Benz Future Bus, which debuted in 2016. It can reach speeds of up to 43 mph on a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) route, pause at bus stops and traffic lights, advance automatically and brake in response to obstacles or pedestrians in the roadway.
While Mercedes is constantly pushing new innovations in automated driving, it’s been careful to follow a strategy of only introducing them when they are ready. That involves developing a valid safety concept and undergoing comprehensive trials ahead of the market launch.
“We have always been able to prove to our customers of our systems’ maturity,” Hafner says.
He says feedback from customers confirms that Mercedes is designing automated driving functions along the right lines. For example, the new driving assistance programs coming to the S-Class will make autonomous driving even closer to reality. Hafner says the scope of automated driving functions has been expanded in line with the needs of drivers. Today, it now provides real benefits on most kinds of roads.
Hafner says Mercedes’ upgraded S-Class features several new and notable functions. For example, the new Route-Based Speed Adaptation function can reduce speeds in anticipatory mode by referencing the COMAND map data ahead of bends, T-junctions, roundabouts, toll booths and exit roads. That’s one of the many practical changes that Hafner says Mercedes has instituted in the S-Class vehicles.
“Innovations must not be an end in themselves, but rather make good sense for the customer,” he says. “And their user-friendliness is often also decisive when it comes to acceptance. In the new driving assistance generation, the progress made here is reflected in the extended, even more intuitive status displays in the instrument cluster and on the head-up display.”
And at the end of the day, Hafner says Mercedes is keeping its eye on the ultimate prize – fully autonomous driving.
The company has a new corporate strategy called CASE. One of the pillars is “autonomous,” which shows how important the concept is. (CASE stands for Connected, Autonomous, Shared & Service and Electric Drive.)
“We are continuing to pursue our vision of accident-free driving, and this ambitious aim can only be achieved through many smaller steps, culminating in the autonomously driving car,” Hafner says.
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