During a preview event in Stuttgart, Mercedes-Benz revealed a slew of new technology that will be fitted to its next-generation fighter in the executive segment, the W213 Mercedes-Benz E-Class, ahead of the car’s slated debut at the 2016 Detroit Auto Show. The list of deeply impressive new features run the gamut from smartphone integration to cutting-edge safety tech and autonomous driving.
First things first – with the new E-Class, the smartphone becomes your key, thereby bringing a whole new meaning to the term “keyless entry and start.” Simply tap a phone with Near Field Communication (NFC) – such as an iPhone 6 or various Samsung or Sony Android phones – on the driver’s door handle to lock and unlock the car. Once inside, placing the phone on the wireless charging plate enables the ignition. A secure SIM card is required for these functions to be available, however.
Also operable via a smartphone is the car’s Remote Parking Pilot function, similar to the new G11 BMW 7 Series‘ Remote Control Parking feature – albeit here it’s capable of full parallel and perpendicular parking as well, rather than just driving in and out of a tight space. A circular motion on the touchscreen controls the process; lift your finger and the whole action will stop.
This approach of incorporating the car’s functions (including personal settings such as seating and mirror positions) into a smartphone differs distinctly from Munich’s tactic of building a sophisticated Display Key with a touchscreen, and means that there’s probably a better chance of added functionality being incorporated through software updates in the future. It could make having multiple drivers much easier, too.
But there’s so much more to it than that – the W213 will also feature an evolution of the facelifted CLS‘ Multibeam adaptive LED headlight technology. The number of diodes has been increased from 24 to 84 – the expanded reach of light and higher definition improves the dimming of certain portions of the high beam (to avoid dazzling oncoming traffic), enables curve-following lighting or an increased spread for low-speed driving, and allows for the switch between low and high beam all without the need for moving parts.
The other innovations concern safety. Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) has been around for some time, of course, but the W213’s Active Brake Assist will also be able to scan other lanes for other cars, initiating the braking procedure sooner if it detects evasive action is not possible. The system will also be able to detect cross traffic and brake accordingly to avoid or mitigate a collision.
Additionally, a new Evasive Steering Assist detects if the driver is performing a steering manoeuvre to avoid obstacles such as pedestrians and other vehicles, and can add or reduce steering torque to either provide a larger clearance around the obstacle or to stabilise the car. However, it won’t initiate the manoeuvre by itself; keep the steering straight and it will brake instead.
Improvements made to the Distronic adaptive cruise control (now called Distance Pilot Distronic) brings forth new features, including Speed Limit Pilot, which slows down or speeds up the car depending on the speed limits detected by a camera or inputed into the navigation system. The Active Lane Keeping Assist also now works at speeds of up to 200 km/h, and can even follow unmarked roads – tailing cars ahead and scanning roadside furniture such as reflector posts, barriers and buildings to stay on track – at speeds up to 100 km/h.
Also uprated is the Pre-Safe system – the new Pre-Safe Sound function senses if a collision is not preventable, and plays an interference sound just before impact. This stimulates the stapedius muscle in the ear, which contracts in response to loud noise, protecting the ears from the bang of a crash.
There’s also Pre-Safe Impulse Side, which uses the seats’ inflatable side bolsters to punt you closer to the centre of the car in a side collision, giving you increased survival space. The new inflatable seatbelt fitted to the W213 is more comfortable than on other cars, with a smaller buckle and no restriction on seatbelt length.
Mercedes-Benz’s vehicle-to-vehicle communications infrastructure, called car-to-X, is fully-integrated for the first time, utilising the built-in SIM card-enabled communication module; previously it was part of a Drive Kit Plus for the iPhone, using the Digital DriveStyle App. So equipped, the W213 can send and receive data on traffic and road conditions to a server, which will broadcast signals to other road users nearby – sudden slowdowns, accidents, breakdowns or slippery road conditions can all be reported.
The E-Class will be the first car to use such networking, but it can also hook up to other compatible systems if/when they come online, and can even tap into government-linked traffic reporting. It’s also claimed to be secure, with the system deleting all personal data as soon as the car is verified.