Mercedes-Benz, through its well-engineered safety systems, ensures that its consumers are safe and sound inside a Merc. It will make any VIP sitting in a bullet-proof car jealous
By: Soumya Jain
Posted on: May 10, 2010
The invitation card for the Mercedes-Benz Stardrive Experience had an illustration of a SUV standing in front of a steep rugged hill. It challenged in big bold letters “Have you ever done this? Here’s a chance to experience something as thrilling.” There’s no way they are going to manage this, I thought, but I anyway signed myself in. My curiosity was at its height.
On reaching the venue, I was made to sign a disclaimer, which the organizers clarified to my frightened face, was just a formality and I won’t be put in a “spot”. After a little briefing on some theoretical knowledge about Mercedes’ safety features, we were led to an area where four shiny E, C, ML and GL class beauties were waiting for us.
As I saw others getting their ‘experiences’, I couldn’t stop gasping. Expensive Mercs were being screeched, hard-braked, and driven up and down a steep make-shift flyover. When I got my chance to sit in the car, I was kindly informed that yelling and shouting was very much allowed. Amidst cheerful wishes of “have fun”, the car started moving slowly.
In the first exercise, the GL class car was driven up on two bars which were placed parallel at a distance equal to the width of the car. They were, however, not in the same line. So, as a result, when the car climbed up on the bars, the front tyre of the right side and the fore tyre of the left side were in the air. The car, though stopped in this position, was swaying gently to find balance. The catch was that the car sent maximum power only to those tyres which were on the bars and had sufficient traction. The tyres, which were in the air, would get controlled amount of power so that when those tyres touch the ground again, they would not skid due to the built-up pressure. So, when those tyres finally touched the ground, they started moving smoothly from where they had left.
In the next one, the car was driven up on a steep make-shift flyover. The car was inclined at an astounding 80 degrees angle when completely up on that ramp. The grip of the tyres was such that even if the driver puts his feet off the brake, the car would hold itself on that slope for some time while the driver shifted his foot to the accelerator to resume the drive. When going down the slope, the driver controlled the speed by the touch of a button so that we don’t slide down fast.
Then the car was driven on a slant ramp. All four tyres were on the ramp and the car was completely tilted towards the left side. We had almost overturned, the only difference being, we didn’t. Again, the tyres gripped the slope tightly and stabilised the car. I croaked in my slanting position, “How are you managing that?” The driver replied, “I am not, the car is managing itself.”
I heaved a sigh of relief as soon as I felt the car touching plain ground. Once that was over, we climbed into the C class car. Boris Backes, a German expert from Mercedes-Benz, was at the helm of this car. He made sure we were comfortable with our seatbelts on. As we were driving slowly, he explained a situation. If you are driving at a speed, and suddenly an object or an animal comes in front of you, you tend to suddenly swerve the car off the track and then again bring it back on track. All this can lead to chaos, and consequently, an accident. Backes then proceeded to give us a mock demonstration. The car swerved wildly and we were all swaying sharply inside the car.
Mercifully, Backes stopped the car. And miraculously, we noticed, that the windows and the roof of the car had closed leaving just a slight gap. Backes, then explained, “A Mercedes, sensing an accident-like situation, will promptly activate ‘Pre-Safe’. In this technique, when the car is swerved, the windows and the roof will automatically shut and the seatbelts of the front passengers tighten up a fair amount, locking the person in his/her seat.” The windows and roof are closed so that nothing malicious will come inside the car, like a sharp tree branch or a stone, and nor any part of your body will be thrown out, like a hand or your head. The gap, however, is left for ventilation since the airbags are also released which create pressure inside the car and, as I cheekily added, to allow nearby people to hear us shouting for help if we do have an accident.
The good thing about Pre-Safe is that it’s a reversible process. If the accident doesn’t happen, then you can again lower your windows and open the roof.
A complete safe zone
If a car gives a good smooth performance, it’s a good one. Cars now, however, need to go beyond the conventional parameters of customer satisfaction. There are some other safety features too in your coveted Mercedes. Mercedes has a system to save you from that moment of distraction. Their Electronic Stability Program (ESP) compares the actual behaviour of the car and the intended direction being taken by the driver. So if you intended to go left but somehow lost your direction while braking, accelerating or cruising, ESP detects this problem and relays the data to a micro computer which instantly adjusts the engine torque and applies a precisely metered brake force to one or more wheels to stabilise the vehicle.
A common injury in the aftermath of a rear-end collision is whiplash. Caused by the sudden backward movement of the head, it can lead to headaches, pain in the neck and damage to the cervical spine. To minimise the risk of this injury, Mercedes-Benz’s Neck-Pro head restraints in the front seats immediately move forward and upward, supporting the passengers’ head at an early stage and thereby reducing the risk of a whiplash.
The chances of an accident at night are higher as compared to day time. Thus, under its Night View Assist system, Mercedes has intelligently incorporated two special headlamps which scan the road ahead with invisible infrared light. A camera located next to the rearview mirror records and transfers this extended range of visibility to a display in the instrument cluster, where it appears as a grayscale image. Therefore, drivers can identify obstacles earlier and react accordingly. The system is not affected by the dazzling affect of oncoming headlights.
Mercedes has devised a new headlamp technology which it has aptly named Intelligent Light System. It provides five lighting functions that are activated to match the driving and weather conditions. The five functions include illuminating corners to enhance safety at junctions or when driving slowly around tight bends; lighting up the driver-side of edge of the road more brightly and widely through the headlamp’s low-beam; and increasing the driver’s vision by 50 metres by lighting up the entire width of road if you are traveling at 90kmph.
According to researches, many rear-end collisions could be avoided if the driver of the following vehicle spots the sudden braking of the front car sooner. Consequently, Mercedes-Benz has developed the Adaptive Brake Light system, in which flashing brake lights are activated automatically four times more quickly than amber hazard warning flashers. These lights can warn drivers behind to start heavy braking to avoid a collision. “You might ask how will two or three seconds make a difference, but when you are driving at high speeds, even this little time helps considerably,” said Backes.
Mercedes has worked hard to provide its customers with a safe ‘cocoon’. The body of the car is made from high-strength metal panels with integrated steel supports, stable side sills and a reinforced three-layered roof frame. This considerably reduces the effect of a frontal or side-on crash. It also reduces the risk of injury if the car overturns since the roof is strong.
In case you do get into an accident – which is highly unlikely with all the ‘warning’ features mentioned above – Mercedes provides certain features to help you out of that situation. Hazard warning lights are instantly activated post-accident; doors are automatically unlocked; engine and fuel pump are shut-off; and to prevent inflammable fuel escaping from damaged and leaky fuel pipes, the injection valves are opened to relieve the pressure in the entire fuel system.
As men would say, “Beautiful!”