When computers, cameras, and sensors work together to become the chauffeur.
Mercedes-Benz will soon take the wraps off its revised S-Class flagship, a car set to become the brand’s most technologically advanced model with an upgraded array of safety and assistance systems. The company says its updated range topper represents an important step in the road to fully autonomous driving. With so many hardware and software aids, the 2018 S-Class’ computers will take control of the car in more situations than ever.
Active Lane Change Assist
At speeds from 50 to 112 mph, the driver will be assisted whenever changing lanes on a multi-lane road. The driver will only have to nudge the indicator stalk and then — within 10 seconds — all of the onboard sensors will check whether it’s safe to perform the manoeuvre by assessing the speed of other nearby cars. If the computers detect it’s safe to change lanes, the driver is going to be assisted throughout the process.
Active Lane Keeping Assist
The steering wheel begins to pulsate at speeds between 37 and 124 mph when the sensors detect the S-Class is unintentionally exiting the lane. The system actually does more than that as it can steer the car back in the lane and apply the brakes after going over a continuous line. In the case of a broken line, it will do the same only when it’s going to detect the risk of a collision with the car from the other lane.
Active Speed Limit Assist
By being able to read sign gantries and roadworks signs, the car will automatically adjust the speed. The system will also rely on the data provided by the navigation system to identify and modify the speed based on the applicable speed limits. When driven on unrestricted sections of the Autobahn in Germany, the top speed limit will be automatically set at 81 mph. Needless to say, the driver will have the possibility of modifying the limiter in order to reach higher speeds.
Traffic Sign Assist
Using image recognition and data sourced from the navigation, the system can notify the driver of the permitted maximum speed on the selected route. It also provides information about any overtaking restrictions and speed limits in wet conditions. Moreover, it can also spot no-entry signs, speed limits for trucks, and people on a zebra crossing. Visual and audible warnings are issued, depending on the situation.
Active Distance Assist Distronic
The S-Class’ highly advanced cruise control will be smart enough to predictably diminish speed based on what’s up ahead, such as junctions, roundabouts, toll booths, and bends. After that, the speed will automatically increase back up. Working together with the navigation, the system will also kick in whenever it is going to be in the slow lane approaching a motorway exit.
Mercedes mentions automated driving for an extended period on country roads will be possible with the 2018 S-Class and mentions the Distronic cruise control system will also take into account coasting and even gliding (coasting with the engine off) for cars with engines capable of supporting it.
It will also be able to follow the vehicle up ahead in stop-and-go traffic on motorways and other similar roads, with stops of up to 30 seconds now possible for the first time. During this interval, the S-Class will drive itself and follow the car in front of it.
Active Emergency Stop Assist
As the name of the system implies, the S-Class automatically comes to a stop once the onboard sensors detect the driver is not paying attention to the road and is not responding to the visual and audio warnings. In addition, the hazard warning lamps will be activated at speeds below 37 mph and the car will reduce speed and eventually come to a full stop. Once it comes to a complete halt, the parking brake is engaged, the emergency call system is turned on, and the doors are opened.
Active Brake Assist
It helps the driver avoid an imminent collision with vehicles or people that are up ahead. It does so by turning on a warning lamp in the instrument cluster whenever the distance from whatever is in front is not big enough. If there’s actually a collision risk, an audible warning is issued. After that, the autonomous emergency braking system is automatically activated. The driver also receives braking assistance right after hitting the brakes.
Evasive Steering Assist
Just like Active Brake Assist, the Evasive Steering Assist system provides further assistance to avoid a crash. It helps the driver perform an evasive action whenever pedestrians are identified in the danger zone by applying extra steering torque in the direction the driver is performing the evasive manoeuvre.
Active Blind Spot Assist
It works from 6 to 124 mph by issuing visual and audible warnings after detecting danger of side collisions with other vehicles once the driver uses the indicator. The system can also trigger the brakes, but only when the car is doing more than 19 mph.
Active Parking Assist & Remote Parking Assist
The owner of an S-Class will receive assistance whenever parking it, and will also be alerted by the Blind Spot Assist and Rear Cross Traffic Alert systems of any dangers while reversing. If necessary, autonomous braking will be activated to avoid a collision.
To avoid the hassle of having to park the car on your own, the 2018 S-Class will benefit from remote parking functionality by simply using a smartphone to do all the work for you. It can autonomously manoeuvre in both forward and reverse directions by up to 15 meters and avoid obstacles in the process.
Lastly, the driver gets a heads up whenever approaching a dangerous area marked by another Car-to‑X user. These early warnings are shown on the map and there’s even an audible warning in some cases when the driver is getting closer to the hazard.
Mercedes will unveil the S-Class facelift in full on April 18, prior to the car’s public debut a day later at Auto Shanghai 2017. Sales will begin this autumn.
Gallery: 2018 Mercedes S-Class facelift technology
Driving assistance systems: the next step: The new S-Class: Intelligent Drive Next Level
Stuttgart. With new and considerably extended driving assistance functions, the new S‑Class will this autumn be taking a further, major step towards autonomous driving. Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC and Active Steering Assist now support the driver even more conveniently in keeping a safe distance and steering, and the vehicle speed is now also automatically adjusted in bends and at road junctions. Also on board 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. From the autumn, the new S‑Class will be able to support its driver considerably better than all systems which have been available to date."
With the new driving assistance generation autonomous driving is becoming yet more tangible. The scope of automated driving functions has been expanded in line with practical needs and now provides further enhanced, tangible customer benefits on virtually all types of road.
Thanks to enhanced camera and radar systems, the new S‑Class has an even better view of the traffic situation: In addition, for the first time it makes use of map and navigation data to calculate driving behaviour.
The driver is also able to see at a glance which assistance functions have been selected, and to which situations the systems are reacting at present. Clearly understood icons – e.g. a steering wheel with hands on both sides – give information both on the screen and in the head-up display. All functions are now controlled from the steering wheel.
As a pioneer of automotive safety, Mercedes-Benz pursues research in this field with a rigour unmatched by any other car brand. Dr Michael Hafner: "We have always programmed the software for the assistance functions in-house. This means that we are able to implement new ideas very quickly."
The individual functions in detail:
Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC: The speed preset in DISTRONIC is predictively reduced according to the route ahead of bends, junctions, roundabouts or toll booths, then increased back up. If the route has been selected using the navigation system, the S‑Class also responds accordingly: if the car is in the slow lane, it is decelerated when approaching the desired motorway exit. The same applies to junctions where the navigation route prescribes a turn-off or ahead of which the driver activates the turn indicator.
The reduction in speed is in varying degrees, depending on the selected transmission mode (ECO, COMFORT or SPORT). In ECO mode, the cornering speed is configured to harmonise with Steering Assist. This means that automated driving for longer periods is also a reality on country roads. On highways and motorways, Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC controls the distance from the vehicle ahead within a speed range from 0 to 210 km/h, and keeps the car on track.
Coasting characteristics, e.g. on downhill slops, can now also be taken into account. In the interests of smooth and efficient driving, the speed is reduced in good time. If the vehicle is equipped with a drive system suitable for "gliding" (coasting with the engine off), this mode is automatically activated when the ECO transmission mode is active.
Active Lane Change Assist: When the driver wishes to change lanes on multi-lane roads (recognised by the navigation system) at speeds from 80 to 180 km/h, it is now sufficient to nudge the indicator stalk. Within the next ten seconds, the sensor system checks together with the driver whether the next lane is clear in front of, alongside and behind the vehicle, also taking into account the speed of any other vehicles. When there is no other vehicle within the relevant safety zone, the driver is supported in changing lane. The initiated lane change is indicated in the instrument cluster and on the head-up display.
Active Speed Limit Assist: In conjunction with COMAND Online, Active Speed Limit Assist – an engageable subfunction of Traffic Sign Assist – is also able to recognise sign gantries and road works signs. Known limits, such as 50 km/h in built-up areas or 100 km/h on country roads, are also adopted from the navigation system. Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC adapts the vehicle's speed to the recognised speed limits automatically. In certain cases, the speed can be adapted in anticipatory mode on the basis of map data. On roads without speed limits, such as stretches on German motorways, the recommended speed – in this case 130 km/h – is adopted as the set speed. This speed can be adjusted by the driver. The desired maximum speed is always adopted in the course of the journey when the speed limit is lifted. It remains preset until the vehicle leaves the motorway or until the engine is switched off.
Following vehicles in a tailback: In stop-and-go traffic on motorways and similar roads, stops of up to 30 seconds are now possible, within which the S‑Class automatically moves off and follows the traffic ahead.
Active Emergency Stop Assist: Active Emergency Stop Assist brakes the vehicle to a standstill in its lane if it detects that the driver is no longer actively driving the vehicle while it is on the move with Active Steering Assist switched on. If there is no steering wheel movement over a predefined period, the system gives the driver a visual and audible prompt to place his/her hands on the wheel. If the driver fails to respond after repeated visual and audible prompts by moving the steering wheel, accelerating, braking or pressing the Touch Control Button on the steering wheel, the car will be slowed down in the identified lane until it comes to a standstill. At speeds below approx. 60 km/h the following traffic is warned by means of hazard warning lamps. When the vehicle comes to a standstill, the parking brake is engaged automatically and the Mercedes-Benz emergency call system is activated. The vehicle is also unlocked, to allow first aiders access to the interior. The functions are aborted as soon as the driver takes control of the vehicle again.
Active Brake Assist: Active Brake Assist with cross-traffic function is able to help the driver avoid impending collisions with vehicles ahead, stationary or crossing vehicles and with people if the driver fails to take any action to defuse the dangerous situation. This assistance takes the form of
- a distance warning from a warning lamp in the instrument cluster, if the distance from a vehicle in front is inadequate
- an additional audible warning when a danger of collision is identified
- autonomous emergency braking to avoid a collision with moving stationary or crossing vehicles ahead
- autonomous emergency braking for pedestrians
- situation-related braking assistance as soon as the driver applies the brakes.
Evasive Steering Assist: Evasive Steering Assist can support the driver in taking evasive action when pedestrians are detected in the danger zone in front of the vehicle and the driver initiates such action. The system then applies additional steering torque in the direction in which the driver is performing an evasive manoeuvre. This helps the driver to evade the pedestrian in a controlled manner and to stabilise the vehicle on its evasive course.
Active Lane Keeping Assist: This system is able to warn the driver by means of pulsed vibrations on the steering wheel when the vehicle is unintentionally drifting out of its lane at speeds between 60 and 200 km/h. If the vehicle passes over a continuous line, it can pull the vehicle back into lane by applying the brakes on one side. In the case of a broken line, such intervention takes place only when there is a danger of collision with a vehicle in the next lane (including danger from oncoming traffic).
Active Blind Spot Assist: In the speed range from approx. 10 to 200 km/h, this system is able to provide the driver with a visual alert, plus an audible alarm when a turn indicator is actuated, to warn of a danger of side collisions with other vehicles, including bicycles, for example. At speeds above 30 km/h, automatic braking on one side of the vehicle can additionally be applied to help avoid a side collision at the last moment.
Traffic Sign Assist: Image recognition and information from the digital road map in the navigation system allow the permitted maximum speed and any restrictions on overtaking for the current route section and zebra crossings to be computed and shown in the instrument cluster. Additional restrictions such as speed limits in wet conditions (warning when the windscreen wipers are switched on) or speed limits for trucks only are also taken into account or ignored as appropriate in the individual case concerned. The road speed is compared with the maximum permissible speed. If set to do so by the driver, a visual/visual-acoustic warning is given if the speed limit is exceeded. No-entry signs are also recognised and the driver is prompted to check the vehicle's direction of travel. A warning additionally appears in the instrument cluster and on the head-up display when persons are detected in the area of zebra crossings.
Car-to-X Communication: Information concerning hazardous situations which a vehicle on the road has detected is made available to all other Car-to‑X users to give drivers an early warning. As with Live Traffic Information, reports transmitted by Car-to‑X are shown on the COMAND Online map display. Depending on the situation, a warning by voice output can be given when approaching a hazard.
Active Parking Assist: Active Parking Assist with Parking Assist PARKTRONIC supports the driver in searching for a parking space and when entering or leaving parallel or end-on parking spaces. In the case of end-on parking spaces it is active in both forward and reverse direction. It manoeuvres the vehicle automatically into the selected parking space. In conjunction with Blind Spot Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert can warn the driver of cross traffic when reversing out of end-on parking spaces and can also initiate automatic braking if necessary. In the case of Active Parking Assist with 360° camera, all-round vision is made possible by the reversing camera and three additional cameras. The information is presented clearly in full HD in a choice of different views on the central display.
Remote Parking Assist: Remote Parking Assist enables the driver to manoeuvre the vehicle into tight parking spaces or garages by smartphone, so as to facilitate entering and alighting from the vehicle. The vehicle can be manoeuvred into parallel and end-on parking spaces in both forward and reverse direction. Manoeuvring out of end-on parking spaces is also possible, e.g. if the driver returns to their vehicle to find that it has been blocked in. In Explore mode the vehicle can be manoeuvred straight forward or in reverse by up to fifteen metres, avoiding detected obstacles. In narrow passageways, following confirmation by the driver the vehicle is able to fold in the exterior mirrors so that it can approach the detected obstacle more closely (e.g. narrow garage entrance).