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The future, as brought to you by Mercedes

By Peerzada Abrar
January 07, 2020 09:00 IST
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With the new Experimental Safety Vehicle ESF 2019, the German luxury carmaker is giving an insight into the ideas that the company's safety researchers are developing, reports Peerzada Abrar.

If you are visiting the campus of Mercedes-Benz Research and Development India (MBRDI) in a Bengaluru suburb and come across a black-and-white Mercedes SUV in the parking area, don't mistake it for just another luxury vehicle.

It is the Mercedes-Benz Experimental Safety Vehicle (ESF), which is capable of fully-automated driving in many situations, and has a plug-in hybrid drive system.

During a demonstration, a small robot automatically emerged from the vehicle's rear following an incident and positioned itself at the roadside as a warning triangle.

Other such features include a warning triangle that unfolded out of the vehicle roof at the same time, and the rear window that became a communication surface.

It showed how cases of accidents or breakdowns could be managed more effectively with innovations such as the small robot. 

With the new Experimental Safety Vehicle ESF 2019, the German luxury carmaker is giving an insight into the ideas that the company's safety researchers are developing.

Among the one dozen or so innovations they are working on, some are implementable while others are futuristic concepts.

The concept car that was earlier this year showcased at a motor show in Frankfurt, Germany, has been brought to MBRDI to motivate engineers here.

"If you ask me why we brought it to Bengaluru (MBRDI), it is because it is the largest centre outside of Germany.

"The thousands of engineers (who are) working here need to get an inspiration about the next level of safety," says Manu Saale, MD and CEO, MBRDI.

"And I hope that it plays its role in the next few days. Our engineers are going deep dive with demos, understanding the ideas behind it and then going back to ideate (what else can be built on it) or even change it."

MBRDI files over 100 patentable ideas on an average in a year. The centre has also made some contribution to the simulation work for the ESF.

The ESF 2019 incorporates more than a dozen trailblazing safety innovations in tangible form. It reflects the mobility of the future and the new approaches associated with autonomous driving.

The vehicle has several features to ensure the driver's safety. For example, when it is driven in a fully-automated mode, the steering wheel and pedal cluster are retracted to reduce the risk of injury during a crash.

The greater interior flexibility requires new ideas for restraint systems (seat-integrated belt) and airbags with alternative installation spaces.

The car, for example, has driver airbag in the dashboard, side air bag fitted in the side bolsters of the seat backrests.

The concept car also has some out with several innovations when someone is driving it in manual mode. For instance, with daylight-like light from the sun visor augments interior lighting which can keep the driver alert.

The sensors fitted in ESF 2019 not only keep an eye on the traffic, by communicating with other cars and also warning other commuters.

The vehicle is also equipped with a headlamp technology called 'Digital Light' which ensures less distraction for other commuters with a dazzle-free high beam in HD quality.

With the child seat concept 'pre-safe child seat,' the vehicle provides greater protection to the children through seat belt which preventively tensions itself before a crash to ensure that the child is more firmly and accurately fixed in the seat. The integrated cameras and specialized sensors installed in the car monitor the child's vital signs.

The car also has a feature called 'Pre-Safe Curve' which uses the belt tensioner to warn the driver that he or she has possibly underestimated an approaching bend.

The 'pre-safe' sidelights in the vehicle with electro-luminescent paint can defuse potentially hazardous situations, claims the car maker.

For the safety of the rear passengers, the airbag has a special tubular structure that helps in its easy deployment and positioning.

An 'active brake assist' with extended functions in the ESF 2019 provides additional protection, especially in potentially dangerous traffic situations with unprotected road users. The car detects pedestrians and cyclists moving in parallel.

In case it senses a collision with other commuters and pedestrians, it relays a visual and voice alert to the driver.

In case the driver fails to react, the autonomous braking system chips in. The 360-degree pedestrian protection system warns and assists while parking and manoeuvring if there is a risk of collision with more vulnerable road users (pedestrians, cyclists).

"We are trying to save the rear passengers (using airbag) in case of any accidents. Though this concept was developed in Germany, all the digital simulations were done here at MBRDI," says Vijay Kalakala, who works for safety.

Photographs: Kind courtesy Mercedes-Benz.

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Peerzada Abrar in Bengaluru
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