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Press Pass 2006

IIHS Studies Show Electronic Driver Aids Really Do Prevent Accidents; Mercedes is Constantly Pushing this Technology Forward
By Lindsay Holloway; photos courtesy Mercedes Benz
Sep 8, 2006, 21:51 PST
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Though Mercedes-Benz has always been a pioneer in safety innovations for its vehicles’ passengers, recent developments and studies have only boosted performance and safety ratings.

Updating a 2004 study, the Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) confirmed that Mercedes’ vehicle stability control system, or ESP, which it originally invented and debuted in the mid-’90s, reduces the likelihood of all fatal accidents by 43 percent and fatal single-vehicle accidents by 56 percent. The study also found that sport utility vehicles with the system have 80 percent fewer rollovers than SUVs without it.

Working invisibly within a split second, ESP helps a driver maintain overall control of the vehicle by breaking individual wheels and/or reducing excess engine power. Electronic brake force distribution acts as four individual brakes, one on each wheel, applying pressure at various intervals. In addition, the system simultaneously reduces excess engine power. The system’s intervention helps to prevent oversteer and understeer by using electronic sensors and computer logic to constantly monitor the vehicle’s path (via lateral acceleration, yaw and individual wheel speeds) in relation to the driver’s intended direction. In a situation of understeer, or front-end plowing, ESP increases brake pressure to the inside rear wheel. When the system senses oversteer, or rear-end fishtailing, it increases brake pressure to the outside front wheel. So, if the rear wheels begin sliding to the right, ESP applies the right front brake to counteract the yaw and stabilize the vehicle. Because ESP is effective during acceleration, braking and coasting, the system combines traction control, anti-lock brakes and yaw control. All of this takes place even before the driver senses any changes.

The system’s success has led some experts to view ESP as the greatest safety equipment development since seat belts. However, some see this as an excuse to push the vehicle harder and faster, which could result in more severe accidents. Industry experts stress that ESP is merely an aid to the driver, and if the vehicle’s chassis and stability control system are pushed too far, an accident cannot be prevented.

 

 

Though ESP is already standard on all Mercedes-Benz models and many several leading brands, including Acura, BMW and Lexus, the U.S. National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration might make ESP mandatory on all passenger vehicles in the future.

Another new safety feature available—in both the S-Class and CL-Class Coupe—is the Pre-Safe brake. Debuting this fall, the new braking system complements 2005’s Brake Assist Plus (BAS Plus). BAS Plus provides visual and auditory warnings if it senses that the vehicle is nearing a rear-end collision and calculates the brake force necessary to prevent the crash. Pre-Safe goes beyond that technology by activating automatic partial braking, decelerating the vehicle up to 0.4 g, or approximately 40 percent of the maximum breaking performance. Maximum breaking force will be activated once the driver applies the break.

The technology behind Pre-Safe is three radars constantly monitoring and recording the activity in front of the car. Two near-range radars are located behind the front bumper trim and monitor a 90-foot range with an effective angle of 80 degrees. The third radar, which is capable of scanning a three-lane, 450-foot range, is located in the radiator grill. If the radars sense that the vehicle is too close to the one in front of it, a cautionary symbol will illuminate in the instrument panel. That caution is followed by a warning sound if the preceding vehicle suddenly brakes. At that point, the 40 percent braking capacity is implemented. The driver can then fully apply the brakes or swerve to avert a rear-end collision.

Additionally, the Pre-Safe system incorporates other driver and passenger safety features, including: tightening of seatbelts, inflating of seat air chambers, repositioning of front passenger and rear seats, and raising of rear head rests. If the system detects a risk of skidding, the sunroof and side windows begin closing.

In a study administered by Mercedes-Benz, 70 participants took test drives in simulators using the Pre-Safe and BAS Plus systems. Seventy percent of the test drives remained accident-free. Though nearly one-third of the drivers were too distracted by the test scenario to brake in time, the Pre-Safe brake helped reduce the speed and severity of the accident.

In the event of an accident, Mercedes-Benz vehicles include several features to assist in the situation. One innovative feature is a series of markings on the vehicle’s roof, acting as a guide should rescue workers need to free passengers by cutting open the roof. Imbedded in the black shading, the lines show where the roof and pillars can be cut safely. On the company’s website (www.mbusa.com), consumers will find guidelines for this feature, as well as air bag and battery locations, locations of flammable vehicle materials, and how to operate the Keyless Go and active head restraint systems. The vehicle’s emergency calling system can also help in an accident or emergency situation. Tele Aid automatically contacts a response specialist when a seatbelt tensioner or air bag is activated. The location of the vehicle is transmitted to the specialist, who can then relay the information to a nearby emergency service and the driver’s emergency contacts if necessary. Though Tele Aid is automatic at the occurrence of an accident, drivers or passengers can contact the emergency response specialist by the push of a button.

As with all Mercedes-Benz innovative safety elements, these accident rescue features come standard on most models and optional on others.

 

Electronic safety programs like Mercedes' new pre-Safe (shown above) are being proven to save lives. Image courtesy Mercedes Benz media.

© Copyright 2005 by MotorSportsCenter.com

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