Road accidents are one of the main causes of death and crippling injuries, although car manufacturers are increasingly investing in technology systems that are able to avoid violent accidents with serious consequences.
One of the manufacturers that has been making bigger efforts in this area is Mercedes-Benz, that, since the 1960s has been pioneer in the technology to reduce the number of car accidents and victims in its vehicles. In 2019, anticipating short and mid-term future, the brand launched the Experimental Safety Vehicle ESF 2019. Having as a basis the new GLE with a hybrid plug-in engine, although with the difference of many thousands of Euros invested in new generation technological assistance.
With autonomous driving and electrification in foresight, the brand is trying to answer the upcoming challenges, manly the ones regarding protection of passengers in a universe where the autonomous automobile is “freed” from the normal disposition of the passenger compartment. In not only communicates to the exterior that its on an autonomous mode (cooperative communication) – through lightening and information in the vehicle’s panels –, but also the interior is “transformed”: the steering wheel and the pedals retreat, and if the interior disposition changes, there are new ideas regarding the retention system.
This prototype has safety belts integrated in the seats and airbags in alternative places (the one of the driver in the dashboard and the side one integrated in the lateral part of the seat back). Furthermore, the concern for the safety of the little ones gains importance. Children’s seats will come with the concept of pre-safe child to ease the parents.
Besides the chair with above safety elements, extensible in case of a side crash, the chair’s seatbelt tightens so that the child remains fixated. While traveling, a camera installed in the chair casts images to the central screen (only visible when the vehicle is not moving, so not to distract the driver), with a dedicated menu that assists the installation of the chair and monitors the vital signs of the child or baby. Also for adults there is a reinforced security in the back seats, thanks to an innovative airbag in the back part of the front seats. Other functional details are the seatbelt buckle with USB ports or seatbelts with heating.
However, there are also ideas for the manual driving: using an interior light similar to day’s natural light generated through sun panel, the ESF 2019 helps to maintain the driver alert. Other functions that help in the minimizing of danger are the pre-safe curve that uses the pre-tensor of the seatbelt in order to warn the driver that he or she possible underestimated a curve that is about to enter, or the pre-safe side lights with electroluminescent paint that can be seen at a distance.
Recurring to LiDAR sensors (that change color in an autonomous way), the ESF 2019 manages to perform a series of advance functions in the analysis of traffic, allowing for greater safety to all elements of the public road. The Active Brake Assist system detects pedestrians and bikers in parallel movement to the driving direction and alerts the driver in case the other element wants to turn, crossing its path. If the driver doesn’t react, an autonomous brake will be initiated.
Also in intersections, in case the vehicle detects other vehicles or pedestrians, the ESF 2019 blocks the car from starting. Furthermore, when parked and connected to the public charging station, the vehicle is constantly alert, warning (with sound and visual elements), pedestrians that are about to cross the street while a car is approaching.
The final safety functionality its catchy due to its “friendliness”: in order to avoid accidents while putting the warning danger triangle, the brand created an autonomous robot that “descends” from the area below the trunk in order to position itself at the legal distance in the shape of a triangle, the signaling is furthermore reinforced by another triangle sign in the roof of the car and an alert in the translucent communication panel located in the back window.