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Mercedes reveals ESF 2019 concept
GLE-based ESF 2019 Concept heralds futuristic safety tech for Mercedes-Benz
20 May 2019
By ROBBIE WALLIS in STUTTGART
WITH the reveal of the ESF 2019 concept, Mercedes-Benz has showcased some of the safety and comfort technologies it envisages will make its way into production vehicles of the future.
The new GLE-based concept is designed to represent what the next 10 years of technological advancement for the brand and follows on from the last ESF concept released in 2009.
First created in the 1970s, the ESF (Experimental Sicherheits Fahrzeug – or experimental safety vehicle) program has been responsible for the implementation of a number of safety features into production vehicles including ABS brakes, driver airbags and belt tensionsers, partial high beam and aspects of the pre-safe collision preparation system.
The latest ESF concept brings a focus on autonomous driving safety, as well as passive safety and comfort features with more than a dozen total systems debuted.
With self-driving in mind, the first features include a steering wheel and pedals that fully retract into the dashboard and footwell when in self-driving mode, which can help reduce the risk of injury.
To allow it to retract, Mercedes has created a smaller, rectangular steering wheel and has moved the driver’s airbag to the dashboard, which now deploys over the top of the steering wheel in a similar fashion to the passenger’s bag and provides a greater protection area than a steering wheel-mounted bag.
Multiple new airbag technologies have been created, including bags embedded into the front seats which deploy on either side of the occupant to create ‘wings’ for protection in side impacts, as well as frontal airbags for rear passengers that use structural tubes to inflate and reduce head and neck impacts by 30 per cent in frontal collisions.
Mercedes has also integrated the front seatbelts into the shoulders of the seats, to allow full protective function, even when the seats are reclined during autonomous driving.
To better help communicate with the outside environment when in self-driving mode, a number of pedestrian and driver communication features have been included, with audio and visual cues to create trust with the vehicle.
The front grille has been replaced by an interactive screen that can transmit information including warnings, messages, animations and symbols, and works together with sensors and audio communication to let pedestrians know they have been spotted.
LED lights have been placed in the sensor units on the roof and along the car’s sides to provide further visual feedback, while the rear window panel also features projections that can alert trailing drivers and pedestrians.
The ESF 2019 concept can help improve the safety of pedestrians and cyclists even when not being driven, thanks to a feature that uses its sensors to constantly monitor the surrounding environment – even when parked – and can issue warnings if it detects someone about to walk onto the road in front of a car or bike.
Furthermore, the sensors are able to identify and protect pedestrians and cyclists when performing parking manoeuvres, whether the parking is done manually or automatically.
One of the car’s most novel features comes in the event of a crash – either involving the ESF or when detecting a crash ahead – where a robot is deployed from the rear of the undercarriage which rolls a warning triangle out onto the road behind the vehicle, preventing the driver from having to get out and do it themselves.
The vehicle’s roof is also fitted with an additional warning triangle, which pops up in the event of an accident or road hazard.
The roof-mounted sensors enhance Mercedes’ Active Brake Assist functionality, capable of seeing beyond partially obscured views at intersections when cars or cyclists are approaching in a perpendicular direction and issuing warnings to the driver before braking autonomously if needed.
Mercedes has developed a new, highly integrated child seat that features seatbelt pretensioning and extended side impact protection.
With the seat networked to the car via radio, it now benefits from the Pre-Safe collision mitigation system including a pre-tensioned seatbelt and a new side bolster that shoots out the side of the seat against the door to provide extra stability in the event of a crash.
The seatbelt is mechanically pre-tensioned by rotating the seat 90 degrees when placing the child inside.
To encourage adult rear occupants to wear their seatbelts, the ESF is fitted with illuminated belt buckles, belt feeders, and only allowing the USB connections in the rear to become active when the seatbelt has been fastened.
Mercedes is also working on a heated seatbelt, which encourages occupants to remove bulky clothing items, therefore improving the effectiveness of the belt from a safety standpoint.
For the benefit of the driver, the seat is also installed with a vital sign monitor and camera that allows front occupants to view the child through the infotainment screen without having to turn around.
With a recent study finding that up to 48 per cent of child seats are installed incorrectly, the ESF seat is fitted with signals that tell owners when the seat has been fitted properly.
To help combat driver fatigue, a vitalising interior light has been fitted in the roof above the driver.
Studies have shown that car occupants only receive five to 20 per cent of the sun’s light when driving during the day, which can lead to a decline in alertness and concentration.
The light fitted in the sun visor simulates sunlight without the dazzle and helps keep the body in its natural biological rhythm, with a study conducted with Actros truck drivers in Finland showing positive results for concentration and stimulation when exposed to the artificial lighting.
Mercedes-Benz head of R&D and incoming Daimler AG chairman of the board of management Ola Kaellenius said that some of the features shown in the ESF 2019 are close to being implemented in production cars.
“Safety is part of the brand DNA of Mercedes-Benz,” he said.
“The new ESF 2019 reflects the mobility of the future and presents a wide variety of innovations which we are currently researching and developing.
“And I can already say this much: some of the functions are very close to series production.”
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