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SAFE TO DRIVE


Inch - epaper ⋅ Ausgabe 3/2019 vom 05.09.2019

Experimental safety vehiclesmay not be as shiny or fast as other prototypes but they providea reassuringlook into the future of driving safety. Mercedes-Benz recently introduced a car that winksat pedestrians, thinks ahead and sends out a little companion to warn other drivers.


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Experimental-Sicherheitsfahrzeuge sind vielleicht nicht so durchgestylt und schnell wie andere Prototypen, dennoch gewähren sie einen beruhigenden Blick in die Zukunft der Fahrsicherheit. Mercedes-Benz hat vor Kurzem ein Fahrzeug vorgestellt, das Fußgängern zuzwinkert, vorausdenkt und einen kleinen Begleiter ...

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... vorschickt, um anderen Fahrer zu warnen.


Car manufacturers just love their show cars. After all, it’s theboldly curved design studies which attract visitors to theirbooths at the carfairs in Frankfurt or Geneva. Other show cars may be harder to find – the naturalhabitat of demonstrators for the latest engine orchassis technology are usually race or off-roadtracks . Then there is a thirdkind of show car – not as fast andpleasing as itssiblings but actually the most important of them all: the experimental safety vehicleshowcasing state-of-the-art protection for car passengers and other road users.

Mercedes-Benz just introduced the ESF 2019, their latest test bed for car safety technology. It’s the third major revision of a line of safety cars that goes all the way back to the 1970s. As far as thespecifications are concerned, the ESF 2019 is well equipped without reaching too much into the future. Based on the new Mercedes-Benz GLE, it’s capable of automated driving in many situations and has a plug-in hybrid drive system.

It’s exactly thecrossroad between today’s cars and the fully autonomous electric cars of the future that the engineers in Sindelfingen wereaiming for . The upcoming electric drive systems and automated driving lead to changes in therequirements for in-car safety technology: firstly, much more flexible seating positions in theinterior of such vehicles require a different form ofoccupant protection. And secondly,empathy andtrust are central factors for the acceptance of self-driving vehicles. Other road users must be able to recognise intuitively what an automated vehicleintends to do, as in many situations there will be no driver to communicate this. With the new Experimental Safety Vehicle ESF 2019, Mercedes-Benz is giving an insight into the ideas that the company’s safety experts are researching and working on. Among the one dozen or so innovations, some are near-seriesdevelopments and some look well into the future.

WINKING AT PEDESTRIANS

The moststriking feature of the ESF 2019 is certainly the 49,152 LEDs in the front panel. They are part of the car’s ‘voice’. We human car drivers are constantly signalling to other road users: “I have seen you”, “I will stay here”, “Attention,tailback ”,or“I’ll give way to you”. Instead of eyes, hands and theoccasional shout, however, the ESF 2019 uses clearly visible light signals on the large front panel and projections onto therear window to do the same.

Take apedestrian crossing , for example, where we might seek eye contact and indicate with a friendly wave that it’s safe to cross. In place of ourgestures the ESF 2019 uses slowly pulsating,turquoise LEDs on the front sensorhousings to show that it has seen the pedestrian, and then stops. An animated gesture then appears in the front panel to signal that the ESF 2019 will allow the pedestrian to cross the road.

But what about theimpatient driver behind us who can’t see why we are stopping and might betempted to overtake? No problem, the rear window of the modified GLE has a membrane which switches from transparent to milky when required, and can then serve as aprojection screen for a laser projector in theluggage compartment .

A symbol indicates why the ESF is stopping, andsubsequent projection of the camera image shows the pedestrian in front of the ESF to give the vehicle behind a clear understanding.

Other communication scenarios include signalling agap for vehiclescutting in , tailback warnings or indicating localhazards like icysurfaces or roadworks. The clever car even remainsalert when it’s stationary. Say, for example, acyclist isobscured by parked vehicles and in danger of being overlooked when turning. If the parked ESF 2019 recognises such a risk, it uses its communicativecapabilities to attract attention and warn both parties if necessary.

SEND OUT THE WARNING BOTS

Then again, even the safest vehicle can’tavoid accidents entirely. When you arrive at a crash site or your car breaks down, one of your mainduties is to secure the area with awarning triangle . But how is a warning to be given in the future, when there are also driverless and automated vehicles on the roads? Who will put out the warning triangle in this case? Enter the “warning bot”: In anemergency , a small robot automaticallyemerges from itsdrawer-like box in the vehicle’sunderbody . As soon as it has left the stationary vehicle, the warning triangle is automatically unfolded and drives to arequisite distance to warn other road users. Later the robot returns to the vehicle with the triangle folded. A bonus even for “human-controlled” cars: The warning triangle can no longer be forgotten, and there is less personal risk when positioning it.

How polite: An animated light in the front panel signals to pedestrians that it’s safe to cross the road.


< ALL PHOTOS: MERCEDES-BENZ >

Besides these literallyeye-catching ideas the ESF is packed with more features which are like evolutions of existing safety technology. Take the airbags, for example. When the ESF 2019 is driving in automated mode, thesteering wheel andpedal cluster areretracted to reduce the risk ofinjury during a crash. While this provides more flexibility in the interior it also requires new airbag systems with alternative installation spaces. The driver airbag is therefore located in thedashboard , not the steering wheel. Thisdeployment concept familiar from the front passenger airbag, plus the three-dimensional airbagshape this enables, provides greatercoverage . For a better view of the instruments and displays, and to position the airbag where it is leastobstructed , the steering wheel has a flattened upper section.

Another completely new development is also a response to the great seating flexibility: the integral sidebag, which deploys from the sidebolsters of the seatbackrest on both sides. The wing-shaped airbagwraps itself around the shoulders, arms and head of the seat occupant. Its special feature is that it not only protects the passenger on the side facing theimpact . As a so-called middle airbag, it cancushion the occupant on the side not facing the impact and prevent him or her from moving too close to another front seat occupant.

VIRTUALCRUMPLE ZONE

While these airbags may save lives in a crash, other systems actually ‘think ahead’ to avoid or at least soften an impact. Almost like a virtual crumple zone, the so-called Pre-Safe Impulse Rear systemattempts toprevent animpending rear-end collision, or tomitigate its effects, by brieflyaccelerating the car forwards at the last moment. The ESF 2019maintains the same distance at the end of a tailback as a careful driver. When the system recognises that the vehicle behind is about to cause a rear-end collision, it briefly accelerates the car into the gap between it and the vehicle ahead, then brakes it to a stop. Thisincreases the chance of avoiding an accident, astraffic behind has a longer braking distance available. Moreover, the consequences are less serious for the occupants of the safety vehicle if the impact is unavoidable, as they have already been accel erated forward and the relative speed is lower. The necessaryacceleration impulses of just a few hundred milliseconds are only possible with electric drive systems which have a hightorque even from standstill – an electric vehicle needs less than one metre to accelerate to over 7 km/h.

GRAMMAR BIT

MORE/LESS/FEWER

…see highlighted examples in text.

MORE can be used with uncountable & countable nouns:

• more boxes/nails

• more oil/liquid

To express the opposite idea,LESS is used for uncountable nouns:

• less water/time

FEWER is used with countable nouns:

• fewer changes/possibilities

MORE andLESS can be used to qualify an adjective,FEWER cannot:

• more/less modern

• more/less careful

Safety of the future? A little robot puts the warning triangle in place and later puts it back (left). A screen on the rear window can be activated to show the scene in front of the car.


Besides suchbrute electric force the engineers from Sindelfingen alsoemploy much moresubtle , psychological methods to save lives. To keep the driver fitter, a biologically effective, daylight-like light from thesun visor supplements the natural daylight withoutdazzle and keeps the body in its natural biological rhythm. In a study test, subjects tended to react more quickly thanks to the lighting, and made fewermistakes at the wheel – especially in the morning.

An elegant ‘carrot and stick ’ method wants to motivate andencourage rear-seat passengers tofasten theirseat belts : The seat belts are heated so that passengers candispense with thick jackets andcoats . Additionally, the USBplugs ,conveniently integrated into thebelt buckles , are onlyenabled when the seat belts are fastened.

In autonomous drive mode, the ESF 2019’s steering wheel and pedals retract for comfort and safety (left). In the case of a side impact, airbags completely wrap around the rear passengers (middle). The USB socket in the belt buckle is only activated when the seat belt is fastened (right).

These are just a few of the ESF 2019’s many safety technologies. Some of these features may seem overdone or unnecessary at first glance, but this is the nature of a show car. Back in the 1970s when Mercedes-Benz’ first experimental safety vehicle was introduced,petrol heads certainlysniggered at thefoam-clad bumpers as tooungainly , at ABS as unsportsmanlike and at airbags as too explosive. Today, however, we feel at leastexposed if not outright unsafe when we drive in a car whichlacks these now standard features. Who knows, in ten years time we might actually bescared by a car that doesn’t give us a friendly wink at a pedestrian crossing.

In the 1970s, Mercedes-Benz experimental safety vehicles introduced, among other things, features like airbags, ABS, bonded laminated glass as well as headlamp and rear window wipers.


www.mercedes-benz.com/de/innovation/esf-2019 Webseite von Mecedes-Benz über das Experimental-Sicherheitsfahrzeug ESF 2019.

TECH EXTRAS

PICTORIAL BODY IN WHITE

HOW AIRBAGS WORK

Airbags are designed to reduceimpact injuries bycushioning the head or other body parts during a collision. Theyconsist of crash sensors, a control unit, aninflator and the actual airbag made from thin nylonfabric . When theaccelerometers detect adeceleration above apre-set speed which is greater than the normal braking speed they send a signal to the control unit to decide which airbag totrigger .

An electriccurrent is then sent to the inflator, origniter , which overheats andignites the airbagpropellant made ofsodium azide . This fast-burning fuel produces largeamounts ofnitrogen gas, which instantly fills the nylon airbags. In modern automobiles, the entireinflation process takes approximately 35 milliseconds – about six times faster than the blinking of an eye.

When the driver or passenger’s head or body parts make contact with the bag, it begins todeflate with the gasescaping through small holes around the edges of the bag. By the time the vehicle has come to a full stop, the bag should have completely deflated.