According to a study released today by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 41 percent of drivers admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel at some point, with one in ten saying they've done so in the past year. Mercedes-Benz engineers have worked to address this issue by developing ATTENTION ASSIST, a system designed to alert the driver to the first signs of drowsiness.
A steering sensor is coupled to smart software that uses 70 parameters to establish a unique driver profile during the first 20 minutes of driving. Between 50 and 112 mph, the system identifies the erratic steering corrections drivers make as they begin to get drowsy and triggers an audible warning, and a "Time for a Rest?" message with a coffee cup icon appear in the instrument cluster. ATTENTION ASSIST is standard equipment on all E-Class and CL-Class cars as well as V8 and V12-powered S-Class models.
New Intelligent Safety Systems Assist the Driver
Mercedes-Benz, the company that pioneered the crumple zone, ABS anti-lock brakes, SRS, traction control and ESP stability control, as well as many other significant automotive safety advances in widespread use today, is ushering in a plethora of new and potentially life-saving safety features. In addition to ATTENTION ASSIST, systems such as Active Lane Keeping Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist, Nightview Assist PLUS with pedestrian detection and Adaptive Highbeam Assist are fast becoming available on many Mercedes-Benz models.
The DISTRONIC PLUS system now includes Active Blind Spot Assist, which monitors both blind spots and warns the driver whenever a turn signal is activated with a vehicle in the blind spot. Other innovations include Active Lane Keeping Assist, which recognizes lane markings (thanks to a multi-purpose camera in the windshield and a computer that analyzes the images) and alerts the driver by simulating rumble strip vibrations in the steering wheel if the car drifts from its lane without the turn signals on.
Both Active Blind Spot Assist and Active Lane Keeping Assist now incorporate automatic ESP brake intervention. If the driver doesn't heed the initial warnings, the ESP system applies the brake on one wheel to help correct the car's path.
Adaptive Highbeam Assist uses a small video camera to sense both headlights and taillights, then softly and automatically transitions between high and low beam operation to avoid dazzling other drivers. With this system, the range of the head lights can be varied from their current 220 feet to up to 1,000 feet.
Night View Assist PLUS can now allow a driver to see pedestrians up to 300 feet earlier than before. When the system recognizes pedestrians, they appear in the display with an outlined frame highlighting each person. In contrast to passive systems that rely on thermal imaging, this active system bathes the road ahead with invisible infra-red light from two beams mounted in the headlights. Extending the driver's ability to see ahead to nearly 500 feet, Night View Assist PLUS uses an infra-red camera in the windshield and displays the reflected images as highly detailed black & white video images in the instrument cluster.
PRE-SAFE® Brake Can Apply 100 Percent Braking in Emergencies
All cars equipped with the radar-based DISTRONIC PLUS system reap the benefit of another revolutionary Mercedes-Benz safety feature – PRE-SAFE® brake. The latest version of PRE-SAFE Brake can now apply full braking automatically in emergencies, to reduce the severity of an accident.
When PRE-SAFE Brake senses an impending collision, the system sounds three warning tones. About 1.6 seconds before impact is likely, partial braking is automatically initiated, and the PRE-SAFE occupant protection system are activated. If the driver still fails to react, full-power braking is initiated about 0.6 seconds before the collision, reducing the impact and effectively acting as an "electronic crumple zone." DISTRONIC PLUS and PRE-SAFE Brake are available on the E- and S-Class sedans as well as the CL coupe.
PRE-SAFE® Gives A Car Fast Reflexes
Standard equipment on the M- and GL-Class SUVs, R-Class crossover, S-Class sedan, CLS and CL coupe and the E-Class line, PRE-SAFE can actually react before a crash occurs. Although most restraint systems are activated after impact, PRE-SAFE – which has won numerous industry awards in the US and abroad as a forward-thinking safety concept – recognizes an impending accident before it happens. PRE-SAFE senses oversteer, understeer and emergency braking and capitalizes on conditions inside the car during the precious seconds before an impact.
The revolutionary PRE-SAFE® system automatically tightens the front seat belts during those valuable seconds just before a possible impact, and the front passenger seat (and optional power rear seats) move to positions that can provide better protection. If the system senses an impending rollover, the sunroof closes as well. Side windows also close to provide better support for the window curtain air bags.
Radar-Based Blind Spot Assist and Park Assist
The Distronic Plus system now includes Blind Spot Assist, which monitors both blind spots behind the vehicle. Whenever a turn signal is activated with a vehicle in the blind spot, the driver gets visual and audible warnings.
Distronic Plus also incorporates Park Assist, which utilizes six radar sensors mounted behind the front and rear bumpers. At low speeds, the system scans available parking spaces and displays a "P" in the dash if the car will fit in the space. When reverse gear is engaged, the parking system superimposes guidance lines on the rear-view camera display, and the guidance lines actually change with steering input to make parking easier. Blind Spot Assist and Park Assist are included on all S- and E-Class sedans as well as CL coupes equipped with Distronic Plus.
Distronic Plus Helps in Stop-and-Go Traffic
The Distronic Plus adaptive cruise control system uses radar sensors to help maintain a pre-set following distance behind the vehicle ahead, operating at nearly all speeds up to 125 mph The latest system can actually brake the car to a full stop and accelerate it again, so Distronic Plus can also be helpful in stop-and-go traffic.
Short-range 24-gigahertz radar sweeps the first 33 yards in a fan-shaped 80-degree pattern, working in tandem with a narrower nine-degree beam of longer-range radar. The two radar frequencies complement each other to cover a full range of more than 160 yards – more than 1½ football fields. During approval of the new radar frequency, government agencies cited its potential to improve traffic safety, reduce injuries and ultimately save lives.
Brake Assist Plus Teams Up With Distronic Plus
In the early 1990s, Mercedes-Benz engineers conducting simulator tests discovered that many drivers don't push the brake pedal hard enough and soon enough in emergency braking, a discovery that led to the development of Brake Assist, standard equipment on all Mercedes-Benz vehicles since late 1990s. Brake Assist has proven itself time and again, and tests show vehicles with Brake Assist are involved in 26 percent fewer accidents!
An enhanced version -- Brake Assist Plus -- not only supplies appropriate brake boost in emergencies as soon as the driver applies the brake pedal, but also measures the distance to the vehicle ahead (thanks to DISTRONIC PLUS) and seamlessly adjusts brake pressure if the driver doesn't brake hard enough.
While conventional Brake Assist is only triggered by the driver's reflex reaction on the brake pedal, Brake Assist Plus also considers the closing speed of the vehicle ahead based on radar signals from the DISTRONIC PLUS system.
Brake Assist Plus Can Reduce Rear Collisions by 75 Percent
In extensive tests conducted by Mercedes researchers using 300 drivers, the integrated Brake Assist Plus system shows exciting potential for reducing rear collisions in heavy city traffic by up to 75 percent. During testing, data recorders and video cameras documented more than 250,000 real-world miles covered by 200 drivers in the U.S. and Europe, while 100 drivers participated in months of testing on the Daimler driving simulator in Berlin.
Window Curtain Air Bags – Another Mercedes First
After making their industry debut as a standard feature on the 1999 Mercedes-Benz E-Class, window curtain air bags are now standard on all Mercedes-Benz vehicles except convertibles. Window curtain air bags are installed on each side and span the entire length of the vehicle interior.
Deploying from the roof in about 25 milliseconds, in certain side impacts and rollovers, the window curtain air bag can prevent occupants' heads on the impacted side from striking the side window or roof pillars in a severe side impact. The gas-filled cushion can also block glass splinters or some other objects that could cause injury in a side impact or rollover.
Active Head Restraints
Active front head restraints are now standard on many models. In the event of certain rear-end collisions, the front head restraints move forward more than 1¾ inches (44 mm) and upward by more than an inch (30 mm), supporting the head to help reduce whiplash injuries. After they've been deployed, the active head restraints can be re-set to their original position using a special tool that comes with the car.
Safety as a Guiding Philosophy
In 1939, when Béla Barényi joined the company, Mercedes-Benz implemented innovative engineering and features that greatly enhance automotive safety. Mercedes-Benz vehicles incorporate extensive active safety features that help the driver avoid mishaps include ABS anti-lock brakes, traction control, and ESP stability control and are complemented by responsive suspension and steering.
Passive features designed to limit injury if an accident occurs include front air bags, side impact air bags, window curtain air bags, energy-absorbing car body design, strong seat structures, seatbelts, seatbelt tensioners and belt force limiters. Mercedes-Benz engineers made dramatic advances in passive safety, including the first "occupant friendly" interior in 1959, incorporating energy-absorbing features like a padded dash and steering wheel hub, sun visors, door trim, arm rests and recessed door handles.
Air Bag Design Pioneer
Mercedes-Benz was the first carmaker to make a driver's frontal air bag standard equipment as part of its restraint system. Today, all Mercedes models come with a standard front passenger air bag and front side impact air bags, which help protect occupants during severe side impacts.
Dedicated sensors determine the severity of the side impact, and, within milliseconds, trigger the respective side impact air bag. The bags are fully inflated about 15 milliseconds later. Front air bags are inflated in about 30-45 milliseconds.
Emergency tensioning devices for the seat belts, which reduce slack in the belts to increase their effectiveness in a collision, have been standard equipment on Mercedes-Benz cars since 1984, and spool-integrated belt force limiters made their debut on the 1996 E-Class and are featured on the front and outboard rear seats of all Mercedes-Benz models. Other key features include a fuel tank mounted ahead of the trunk, well away from the rear of the car.
Industry-Leading Safety Systems
Five key safety features widely used today trace their roots to Mercedes-Benz safety research:
The energy-absorbing car body – Patented in 1951, the "crumple zone" design combines a rigidly constructed passenger compartment, or cell, with energy absorbing front and rear body structures. The front and rear structures of the body have been designed to deform at a pre-determined rate upon impact, while cross members help involve both sides in absorbing energy in a frontal offset collision.
ABS anti-lock brakes – Now available in almost every car line offered in North America, an anti-lock braking system was first offered by Mercedes-Benz in 1984. An acronym coined by Mercedes-Benz in 1972 which translated as "anti-locking system," ABS is designed to preserve directional stability during hard braking and has been standard on all U.S. Mercedes models since the 1989 model year.
Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) – Mercedes-Benz was an air bag pioneer, emphasizing that they are most effective when used with seat belts. Mercedes actually coined the term Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) for the group of features that include front air bags, knee bolsters and front three-point seatbelts with Emergency Tensioning Retractors. While ETRs remove seat-belt slack just as the air bags begin to deploy, the system also incorporates belt force limiters which then yield somewhat as belt restraining forces increase on the chest later in the collision sequence.
Traction control – Mercedes-Benz was one of the first carmakers to introduce a form of electronic traction control, called Automatic Locking Differential (ASD) in 1991. Since then, the company has advanced the technology with today's full-range traction control, which reduces the throttle electronically if necessary to restore traction, and then applies one of the rear brakes momentarily if relaxing the throttle is not sufficient. Traction control is now standard on all passenger cars, while the GL-, GLK-, M-, G-Class SUVs and the R-Class, as well as C-Class, E-Class, and S-Class models ordered with optional all-wheel-drive system employ an electronic four-wheel traction control system.
ESP Stability Control – Introduced in 1995 and standard on every model, Mercedes' Electronic Stability Program works invisibly to help the driver maintain directional control in hazardous driving conditions. This system uses sensors to constantly monitor individual wheel speed, steering angle (the driver's desired direction) and lateral acceleration (actual cornering force), as well as an advanced yaw rate sensor derived from aircraft technology. From these inputs, ESP can determine if a car is going in the direction the driver intends. Should the car begin to slide or spin, ESP temporarily applies brake pressure at one or more wheels– something no driver can do – to help restore the driver's intended path.
Summary of Significant Safety Innovations
1938 – self-adjusting brakes
1951 – the safety car body with rigid passenger cell and front and rear crumple zones
1959 – first frontal crash test
1959 – "occupant-friendly" interior
1960 – first rollover test
1961 – servo-assisted disc brakes
1967 – first energy-absorbing steering wheel and telescoping column
1969 – systematic analysis of traffic accidents (in Germany) with Mercedes-Benz cars
1971 – fuel tank over rear axle and separated from passengers by steel panel
1971 – ribbed "anti-soil" tail lamps
1973 – front three-point seatbelts standard (optional since 1968)
1979 – rear outboard three-point seatbelts standard (optional since 1974)
1979 – front shoulder belt height adjustment
1980 – first offset crash car design
1983 – Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) in North America
1984 – emergency tensioning retractors to reduce slack from front passenger seatbelt
1984 – electronic anti-lock brake system (ABS)
1985 – emergency tensioning retractors to reduce slack from front driver seatbelt
1988 – driver and passenger front air bag system offered in North America
1989 – first automatic deploying rollover bar (1990 SL coupe/roadsters)
1989 – first seatbelts integrated into seats (1990 SL coupe/roadsters)
1994 – driver and passenger front air bags standard on all models in North America
1995 – ESP stability control (1996 S-Class coupes)
1996 – side impact air bags for driver and front passenger
1997 – BabySmart child seat detection system (1998 SLK coupe/roadster)
1997 – Brake Assist system
1998 – window curtain air bags (1999 E-Class sedans)
1999 – dual-stage front passenger air bag (2000 S-Class sedan)
1999 – Tele Aid emergency calling system (2000 S-Class sedan)
2000 – dual-stage front driver and passenger air bag (2001 C-Class)
2002 – PRE-SAFE system (2003 S-Class sedan)
2005 – active front head restraints (many 2006 models)
2006 – DISTRONIC PLUS, Enhanced PRE-SAFE and Night View Assist (2007 CL and S-Class)
2007 – PRE-SAFE Brake (2007 CL coupe)
2009 – ATTENTION ASSIST, Lane Keeping Assist, Blind Spot Assist, Adaptive High Beam Assist (E- and S Class)
2010 – Active Lane Keeping Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist (E, CL and S-Class)