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Future models - Mercedes-Benz - E-class

Mercedes-Benz previews autonomous tech for E-Class

Remote parking, 360-degree radar and car-to-car comms for next Mercedes Benz E-Class

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Mercedes-Benz logo10 Jul 2015

MERCEDES-BENZ’S E-Class will offer a higher degree of autonomous ability and safety technology than any commercial passenger car that has gone before it, when it launches in 2017.

The large sedan will feature leading edge technology that will come under the designation of Intelligent Drive, including the ability to drive itself without the use of lane markings and signposts, GPS cruise control, a smartphone-operated self-parking function and more.

An array of on-board cameras and sensors, including a pair of stereo cameras, keep the E-Class in its own lane and at a safe distance from other traffic at speeds of up to 200km/h. It can also steer the car by itself for a period of up to 30 seconds.

Whereas the previous iteration of the system used painted markings for reference, the fourth generation system is able to use solid objects like railings and other cars for reference at speeds up to 130km/h. Without references, however, the system is inoperable.

Braking performance in an emergency is maximised via a new Active Brake Assist system. As well as initiating braking for the driver in a perceived emergency, the system can increase braking force for the driver if the brake pressure is not enough to prevent impact.

The E-Class also has a ‘brake or avoid’ mode and after detecting a stopped car ahead it measures the speeds and distances involved before deciding which course of action is safest.

A new pedestrian avoidance system can help avoid hitting a person at speeds of up to 60km/h. If the driver initiates a swerve to avoid the pedestrian, the vehicle can help to steer itself back into the correct lane.

The new E-Class will also use networking functionality to ‘talk’ to similarly equipped cars in its immediate vicinity, sharing information on traffic conditions, accidents and weather. Dubbed Car-to-X Communication, the system works via an on-board SIM card and Mercedes-Benz’s own database of owners.

The smartphone tech extends outside the car too, allowing the driver to hop out and park the car via a compatible phone's screen. The car can be moved back and forth in ‘Exploration’ mode up to ten metres, as long as the operator is within three metres of the car.

Once a spot has been found, the Remote Parking Pilot can be operated via an application to place a car in a space. The driver traces a circle on the screen to keep the car moving if the finger stops, so does the car.

While the E-Class is able to park very close to objects, the system asks for confirmation if obstacles are within 400mm.

Even the E-Class’s lighting system is integrated into the Intelligent Drive system, with more lighting power provided in poor weather, or when approaching the outskirts of a city.

Compared with the previous version, the number of headlight LEDs jumps almost fourfold to 84 per side, while the LED tail-lights can increase or decrease their brightness intensity according to conditions.

In the cabin, new air bladders in the seat bolsters are able to push an occupant away from the impact point of a side-on crash, while belt-bags – as seen on the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and more recently on the Ford Mondeo – will also be offered on the E-Class.

Even a Mercedes-Benz occupant’s hearing has been considered on the E-Class. In the event of a collision, the noise cancellation system inbuilt into the car will emit a sound wave at the point of an impact, stimulating a muscle contraction within the ear and reducing the impact of the noise.

The E-Class is expected to go on European sale late in 2016 and in it's current-generation leads the sales race in the large luxury segment ahead of the BMW 5 Series, with 646 sales thus far in 2015, a fall of 18 per cent year on year.

The BMW has sold 462 for the year, improving its tally by three per cent from the same time in 2014.

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