CAPABLE, DISCREET AND LOYAL
Wilko Stark, Head of Daimler Strategy & Mercedes-Benz Cars Product Strategy & Planning, is emphatic: “As an automobile manufacturer we have no interest in disclosing or selling the personal data of our customers. For us data protection has the same high status as vehicle safety.” The numerous assistants in the new E-Class are not only helpful, they are also discreet.
“GIVING THE DRIVER THE BEST POSSIBLE SUPPORT” A conversation with the Head of Driver Assistance Systems Dr Michael Hafner (44) heads the unit responsible for the development of driver assistance systems and active safety at Mercedes-Benz. Holding a doctorate in engineering, his previous areas of activity included the associated field of brake control and suspension systems, control technology and neuronal networks. Next: It was in 2013 that Mercedes-Benz achieved the last quantum leap in the field of assistance systems, thanks to improved sensors and sensor fusion. Only a few years ago, the idea that a car could have all-round vision would have been dismissed as utopian. Does this mean that assistance systems have reached their technical limits, or where do you still see potential for the future? Dr Hafner: The introduction of the stereo camera and the fusion of data from different sensor systems were decisive steps that now give us a clear advantage over our competitors. Our task for the future is to refine the sensor signals and algorithms used by the assistance systems to support the driver. Next: In the coming E-Class you are raising “Intelligent Drive” to the next level. What exactly does this mean? Dr Hafner: With “Intelligent Drive next Level” we are once again raising the bar with the new E-Class, and taking the next step on the road to autonomous driving. It can do more than present-day assistance systems in many respects: new functions include remote-controlled automatic parking, the new E-Class is able to follow vehicles ahead at up to 210 km/h even on slight bends while automatically adhering to the current speed limit, and also new are a host of additional functions such as Evasion Assist or emergency braking on encountering tailbacks. We will also be the first automobile manufacturer to integrate Car-to-X communication into the vehicle, enabling it also to use information from outside the detection range of sensor systems. But something else is decisive from a development point of view: the E-Class has an ‘open’ electronics architecture. It is open for further developments. In other words, we will be able to integrate further innovations during the course of its model lifecycle. Next: What else is to be expected? Dr Hafner: Our vision is one of accident-free driving. And this vision is inextricably bound up with autonomous driving. Because an autonomous vehicle must recognise and eliminate the danger of collision, and an accident-free vehicle is inconceivable without increasing automation. Thanks to the open electronics architecture we will be quickly able to incorporate every new development step in this direction into ongoing production – and thereby maintain and increase our advantage in the development of intelligent assistance systems. Next: The more numerous and complex assistance systems become, the less car drivers understand their functions and operating principles in detail. Do we need more explanatory symbols, for example the coffee cup in the case of ATTENTION ASSIST? Dr Hafner: Not necessarily. Very good assistance systems normally work in the background, or support drivers unobtrusively without taking control. What is important is that the assistants provide support when they are needed. We show this with symbols or small graphics when they do, so that the driver is able to identify the assistance system that is intervening. Customers wishing to learn about their functions in more detail can do so by referring to the owner’s manual, which is also available on-screen in digital form. Next: Is the control concept also a part of the comprehensive approach you take to safe driving? Dr Hafner: Of course. In line with the Mercedes-Benz safety philosophy, one major basis for safe use of all the new functions is an ergonomically exemplary control and display concept: The driver must not be distracted from the traffic situation. A head-up display, touchpad and voice control are elements of this concept, as they combine intuitive operation with easy and rapid assimilation of information. Next: Which assistance system do you appreciate and use most yourself? Dr Hafner: Personally I find DISTRONIC PLUS with Steering Assist to be a very convenient help, especially in tailbacks thanks to the Stop&Go Pilot. The new E-Class with the new, fourth-generation Driver Assistance package is able to give the driver the best possible support from 0-210 km/h, in flowing traffic, in convoy traffic and in tailbacks. Once you have experienced it, you do not want to be without it. I also like the fact that the PRE-SAFE® braking functions are always on standby in the background, although they will hopefully never be needed.