Mercedes-Benz has just shown off a new concept. One that gives us the company's vision of an accident-free future of driving. It's loaded with new safety ideas like a robot to warn traffic in case of an accident.
That's right, one of the coolest features of the GLE-based ESF 2019 (short for Experimental-Sicherheits-fahrzeug, or "experimental safety vehicle") is the Warning Triangle 4.0. The warning triangle is already the law in most EU countries, but if you were involved in the collision, you might not be able to place it. So the ESF 2019 gets a roof-mounted robot triangle. If you're in a crash, it hops off the roof, drives itself up the road, and alerts other drivers of the danger. The vehicle is also covered with strips of special electroluminescent paint that will glow after a crash for visibility.
Communication is vital to safety, so the ESF has a projector that can display messages on the rear glass, like "I've stopped for a pedestrian" or "Emergency services have been called". Another screen and automated voice can communicate with pedestrians, especially when in autonomous drive mode.
The ESF can alert drivers that they're headed too quickly into a corner, by using the seat-belt tensioner to give them a tug. A special child seat has extendable side-impact elements and belt tensioners that act before a crash to keep kids safe as well as integrated vital-sign monitoring. Without the child seat, the rear gets a new airbag. But to encourage rear-seat passengers to use their belts, they've also added buckle illumination, a buckle feeder, heated seat belts, and even a USB port lockout to make sure passengers are clicking in.
While some of its features – like the steering wheel that can retract in time for the airbag to fire – are maybe still far into the future, Mercedes-Benz also included new active safety and driver aid features into the ESF 2019 that will be arriving in the near future. Like extending the active brake assist to detect pedestrians and cyclists when the car is turning, to stop you turning into those road users. It won't let you pull away from a stop if it detects that you're setting off to be T-boned, and the system alerts and brakes for pedestrians in 360 degrees when parking.
The company says that even with autonomous driving, vehicle safety will continue to be important. "The great advantage of automating driving functions is that in the future, fewer accidents might be caused by driver error. However, there will undoubtedly be mixed traffic consisting of automated and non-automated vehicles for many years. Furthermore, the increasing number of sensors opens up potentials for passive safety, such as the virtual crumple zone, according to company head of vehicle safety Prof. Dr.-Ing. Rodolfo Schöneburg.
Mercedes-Benz has built more than 30 of these ESF vehicles, starting back in 1971. It's just the sixth to be shown off to the public, and the first they've built since 2009. The cars are created for presentation at the Enhanced Safety of Vehicles conference held in Stuttgart.