In the push to lower the road toll and make life easier for drivers, auto manufacturers are packing more and more semi-autonomous features into their cars. When it comes time to launch the new E-Class, Mercedes is hoping to be ahead of the curve by offering up a range of comfort- and safety-oriented semi-autonomous features in its new driver assistance package that do everything from help the driver steer in dangerous situations, to protect occupants' hearing in the event of a crash.
Mercedes is touting the upcoming new E-Class as another major step along the road towards autonomous cars. On highways, the new car will be able to maintain a constant distance behind the car in front at speeds of up to 200 km/h (124 mph), while at speeds up to 130 km/h (81 mph) the system doesn't rely on lane markings. This means the car can keep following a vehicle through road works and other areas where lane markings aren't clearly visible.
To ensure that the cruise control doesn't miss out on any speed limit changes, the new E-Class will have an option for speed limit detection, which uses cameras and GPS data to automatically match the vehicle's speed with the current speed limit. To enhance nighttime visibility, To give owners the best possible chance, Mercedes has developed LED headlamps that use 84 individual LED units to illuminate the road without blinding oncoming drivers.
There are plenty of cars already fitted with automatic emergency braking, but Mercedes is expanding the number of situations where it can be activated. Instead of being limit to potential rear-end collisions, the system can now detect cross-traffic at intersections and pedestrians who might be in the firing line. If automatic braking doesn't manage to pull the car up and drivers are forced to swerve, an Evasive Steering System will kick in to give the wheel an assistive tug to help the driver put the right amount of lock on.
Despite the technology still being brand new on BMW's S-Class-rivalling 7 Series, the new E-Class will be available with a parking assist system that lets owners stand outside the car while it parks itself with the push of a button on the key. That same key uses NFC, which also allows drivers' smartphones to be used to open the door. Smartphones will also be used as a part of Mercedes' Car-to-X communication system, which is able to share information between cars about accidents or traffic conditions, warning the driver before they actually reach the chaos.
Topping off the focus on safety are additions to Mercedes' Pre-Safe system. If the car detects an unavoidable side-impact crash, it will inflate the air chambers in the backrest side bolsters to move passengers sideways away from the danger zone. A new Pre-Safe Sound system will also attempt to protect occupants from the potentially damaging sound of a crash by emitting a sound through the vehicle's sound system. This is intended to trigger a natural reflex whereby a muscle in our ears contracts in reaction to loud noises to provide protection against high sound pressures.
The new E-Class will be launched next (Northern Hemisphere) spring.