THE world’s most hi-tech car goes on sale in Australia today, with more autonomy than any other vehicle before it.
It can steer itself for up to 60 seconds, change lanes at the press of a button, and the dashboard has a 25-inch wide-screen with the same resolution as an Apple iPad.
There is just one catch: the new Mercedes-Benz E Class starts at $90,000.
But the technology is expected to trickle down to more affordable models.
The hi-tech sedan will also activate “white noise” inside the cabin moments before a crash, to prevent damage to eardrums when airbags deploy.
It can avoid crashing into the car in front — from 100km/h — if the driver is not paying attention, by slamming on the brakes at the last moment.
If the car senses it is about to be hit from behind, it will flash the brake lights in the hope it may alert the driver of the incoming car.
Eighty-four tiny LEDs in each headlight mean the high beams can be engaged without dazzling oncoming traffic — because they blank out the specific area around other cars as they approach.
If the car gets caught in a crosswind, it will automatically dab the brakes — individually, and on either side of the car — to keep it in the lane.
In a side impact, the front seats pivot slightly inboard to move the occupants away from the door.
Shutters behind the grille will close in cool conditions at freeway speeds to improve aerodynamic efficiency and trim fuel consumption.
Despite being as big as a Holden Commodore, the petrol model sips the same amount of fuel as a Toyota Yaris hatchback and the diesel is almost as frugal as a Toyota Prius.
Many new luxury cars these days are available with heated and cooled seats.
But Mercedes has cranked up the opulence by adding heated arm rests in the doors and a heated centre console cover to its list of options.
Despite all its electronic gadgets, Mercedes stopped short of calling its latest model an autonomous car.
Instead, it says the new E Class is “another major step towards autonomous driving” and describes its technology as “assistance systems”.
“It’s there when you need it, the technology should not replace driver attention” says the head of Mercedes autonomous car technology, Jochen Haab.
The man in charge of testing future technology for Mercedes said Australia’s strict speed enforcement made the country “ideal” for autonomous vehicle systems because, unlike Europe, there is not a great differentiation in traffic speeds.
“High differential speeds is not a topic in Australia,” said Mr Haab. “That could be an enabler for Australia for higher levels of autonomy, because you don’t have another car approaching at 250km/h from behind (as can happen on a German autobahn).”
For this reason Mercedes is considering testing future autonomous technology in Australia.
“Australia is a very interesting country for us, long haul travel, very long stretches, good roads, and good road markings,” said Mr Haab.
“We will see this technology work first in freeway conditions, where there are not as many variables and it’s relatively easy for the car’s systems to read and understand other traffic,” he said. “Autonomous technology in city driving is some time away.”
Earlier this year, News Corp Australia discovered — in dramatic fashion — autonomous technology is far from fool proof.
While testing the automatic lane change system, the Mercedes failed to detect the edge of the lane on a freeway and we nearly hit a concrete wall at 100km/h.
Top 10 tricks in the new Mercedes:
1. Can steer itself for up to 60 seconds while cameras and radar monitor the road ahead.
2. It can change lanes automatically at the press of a button — at certain speeds in ideal conditions.
3. The dashboard has a 25-inch wide-screen with the same resolution as an Apple iPad.
4. In a split second before a crash, the audio speakers emit “white noise” so eardrums aren’t damaged by the sound of airbags deploying.
5. Eighty-four LEDs in each headlight mean you can drive with high beam and not dazzle oncoming cars; they create a ‘box’ around other traffic.
6. The front seats pivot inboard as the side airbags deploy to move you out of harm’s way.
7. If you’re about to be hit from behind, the brake lights will flash in an attempt to alert the other driver.
8. In a crosswind, the car will dab the brakes individually — and on either side — to keep you in the lane.
9. Shutters behind the grille close in cool conditions at freeway speeds to improve aerodynamics and trim fuel consumption.
10. It has the option of heated arm rests and a heated centre console.
The Indian Telegraph Sydney Australia