Mercedes-Benz's Experimental Safety Vehicle Is More Than Just Another Autonomous Concept

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【Summary】Mercedes-Benz unveiled an Experimental Safety Vehicle that’s based on the GLE-class that looks into the future of not only autonomous driving, but safety as a whole.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Jul 02, 2019 6:00 AM PT
Mercedes-Benz's Experimental Safety Vehicle Is More Than Just Another Autonomous Concept

Self-driving vehicles are being marketed as being safer than human drivers on the road, but there's a large picture that automakers are missing with autonomous cars: the overall safety of the vehicles. While all sorts of driver aids and new technology will help drivers avoid a crash, what happens when the inevitable crash does occur? That's something Mercedes-Benz previewed with its Experimental Safety Vehicle (ESF).

Safety-Forward Tech For All

The ESF will make its first real-life debut at a convention in The Netherlands, while the public will get an in-person look at the machine at this year's Frankfurt Motor Show. The SUV, which is based on Mercedes' GLE-Class, is fitted with all sorts of insane safety equipment and is the German automaker's way of peering into the future of what could be in store for consumers.

Clearly, from all of the hardware on the exterior, the ESF can drive on its own, featuring Level 4 autonomy (the automaker previously claimed that the next-gen S-Class would have Level 3 autonomy). The SUV, though, does have a steering wheel and pedals for instances when the driver wants to do the driving. When they're not in use, they retract into the dashboard. Not only is it a cool trick, but it diminishes the chance of an injury in the case of an accident.

As a form of vehicle-to-vehicle communication, the ESF has lights on its body that are used to let other drivers, and vehicles, what it plans to do next. The vehicle can also project symbols and animations on the rear windshield to communicate with other vehicles that are driving behind it. Lights on the side of the vehicle can help make the SUV more visible when merging or going through an intersection.

Preventing Crashes But Anticipating Them

When the driver does take over, the ESF has plenty of features to ensure the occupants are safe. "Daylight-like lights" that are placed on the sun visors emit light in a similar fashion to the sun to ensure the person behind the wheel remains alert at all times. Then there are the fancy seatbelt pretensioners that tighten if it senses the driver speeding through a corner. The ESF also comes with a child seat that can monitor a child's vital signs and send live video to a smartphone through the automaker's Mercedes Me app.

Active safety features include an automatic creep function that occurs when the vehicle senses that a vehicle is approaching from the rear too fast and attempts to create more space by slowly creeping forward, automatic emergency braking while cornering, and 360-degree pedestrian detection.

The most interesting piece of equipment on the ESF, though, is a robot that deploys from the vehicle's rear bumper that deploys in the case of an incident. Once the vehicle detects a crash, the robot deploys from a ramp at the back and makes its way up the road. Once in a safe position, the robot erects a reflective road triangle to warn drivers of the stopped vehicle.

We're sure some of the ESF's more advanced features are still decades away. But things like the fancy seatbelts and extra hardware for improved pedestrian detection are probably in the pipeline. Some of the items, like the robot, are farfetched ideas that are fun to envision. Still, when it comes to safety, the ESF really has it all and so could a future Mercedes.


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