10 Jan 2019

S-Class to raise safety benchmark

Flagship limousine to reclaim position as safety pioneer
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The car that has pioneered more safety technologies than any other is set to reclaim its position as the world's safest car.

Speaking to Australian media at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Mercedes-Benz board member in charge of research and development, Ola Kallanius, said the company plans to reveal a safety-focused concept vehicle in the middle of the year that will point to a number of new technologies destined for the next-generation S-Class that is due to be launched in 2020.

"We are going to show a demonstrator - a vision car - of how we will take safety to the next level even though we are already at a very high level. Watch this space," said Kallanius, who will replace Dieter Zetsche as the boss of parent company Daimler later this year.

"I don’t want to say what the features are, but there are some things that are very hands-on and close to series deployment and others that in the future."

Drive understands the car will be the next in a long-line of Experimental Safety Vehicle concepts, the last of which was revealed in 2009 and previewed cutting-edge technologies such as seatbelt airbags, night vision, full LED headlamps, Mercedes' Pre-Safe Impulse that emits a white noise in the event of an accident to protect occupants ear drums - all of which have made into production over the last decade. The 2009 ESF concept (pictured) also had an airbag between the front and rear seat occupants and an airbag that deployed underneath the car to provide greater friction for improve stopping distances.

Kallanius wouldn't divulge any details on what the ESF 2019 vehicle would introduce, but admitted that "I am absolutely amazed by the inguinity of our engineers" since taking over responsibility for engineering four years ago.

He says continual improvements in safety are in Mercedes-Benz' DNA in a bid to eventually reduce vehicle accidents to zero in the future.

"The ultimate goal is zero accidents in traffic, and the things like autononous drive and driving assistance are all enablers to reduce traffic accidents because almost all accidents are a result of human error," he said.

While it is likely the latest ESF concept will feature full driverless technologies, he admitted that the first driverless vehicles from Mercedes-Benz won't be available to purchase privately but used as part of a fleet of ride sharing or short-haul delivery vehicles.

"If you take about full level 4 or level 5 capability, the first business case for that is a mobility service in an area that is dense enough for critical mass, and therefore a city," he said.

"It is then a matter of how quickly you can scale that out to get the costs down so that one day I am sure we will have the individual robot driver. I don’t want to put an exact date on it. But there are a lot of resources being put into that area. It is a very difficult problem to solve, but we are on the way to it."

The next-generation S-Class is due to be revealed in early 2020, most likely at the Geneva motor show, including an all-electric version that will form part of the 10 planned EVs produced under Mercedes-Benz' EQ sub brand within the next four years.

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