New assistance and safety systems: Next-generation driving assistance systems – Intelligent Drive next Level

Mar 9, 2016
Mercedes-Benz's new assistance and safety systems enhance safety, comfort and driver assistance to new levels. In addition, the Stuttgart-based automobile manufacturer is thus taking an important further step on the road to autonomous driving. The new Mercedes-Benz E-Class is the world's first series production vehicle to be awarded a test licence for autonomous driving in the US state of Nevada. This simply requires some software modifications while the standard hardware otherwise remains unchanged.
The engineers at Mercedes-Benz achieve the ideal combination of safety, comfort and stress relief by constantly further developing the safety components and driving assistance systems. Integral Safety and Intelligent Drive are becoming increasingly intertwined, working in synergy in a cross-system concept. Its components can:
  • assist and provide stress relief during normal driving
  • detect dangers
  • warn, assist and, if necessary, intervene in a timely manner
  • consequently prevent accidents or reduce the severity of accidents
  • activate protective measures such as the PRE-SAFE® components as a precaution in the event of danger and thus provide on-demand protection
The individual functions are linked to networked sensors and, therefore, a wealth of information about the vehicle and its surroundings – including an enhanced multi-purpose stereo camera behind the windscreen and new multi-stage radar sensors with adjustable range and opening angle around the vehicle plus tried-and-tested sensors such as ultrasonic sensors and the 360° camera. The combined use of data from the sensors allows analysis of complex traffic situations, better detection of potential dangers on the road and, therefore, the ability to further enhance the capabilities of the safety and assistance systems. To be able to offer optimal assistance also in wintry conditions, the latest-generation front radar is provided with so-called Radom heating, which effectively prevents the sensor being interfered with by snow.
Extensive assistance systems already as standard
The new E-Class comes as standard with Active Brake Assist. This further advanced system can provide effective aid in mitigating the severity of rear-end collisions or even in preventing them entirely. To this end, the radar-based system constantly monitors the area of traffic in front of the vehicle, and can determine the distance and speed of the vehicles ahead. If the following distance drops significantly below the safety threshold at speeds above 30 km/h, the system gives the driver a visual warning. If, in the speed range between 7 and 250 km/h, it detects an acute risk of collision because of slower or stopped vehicles or, in the speed range between 7 and 80 km/h, because of stationary vehicles or crossing pedestrians, the system gives the driver an additional audible warning. It also computes the brake pressure required to prevent a collision, if this is still possible. If, having been warned, the driver then steps on the brake pedal, the system is capable of boosting insufficient braking pressure in line with the needs of the situation. In so doing, it makes the best possible use of the remaining distance in order to leave the vehicles behind room to brake.
If the driver fails to respond, Active Brake Assist can go one step further and, if the danger of collision persists, can perform autonomous braking for slower moving and stopping vehicles at speeds of up to 200 km/h to mitigate the severity of the accident and ideally prevent the collision entirely. The system also brakes if stationary vehicles or crossing pedestrians are detected up to a speed of around 60 km/h, and can prevent collisions up to 50 km/h, depending on the situation.
ATTENTION ASSIST with adjustable sensitivity, which can warn the driver in timely manner of inattentiveness and drowsiness, is also included as standard. Crosswind Assist helps the driver by enabling them to clearly counteract disturbances such as strong gusts of wind by means of one-sided braking via ESP®.
DRIVE PILOT: Intelligent Drive next Level in the Driving Assistance package
The E-Class optionally offers additional assistance systems, the key innovations of which have been combined in a new Driving Assistance package. The most important functions include semi-autonomous driving on motorways, country roads and even in the city as well as assistance when changing lanes on multi-lane roads, for example when overtaking. Furthermore, it is capable in more and more situations of autonomously braking the vehicle if required and providing active assistance during evasive manoeuvres.
The centrepiece of the Driving Assistance package is DRIVE PILOT. This assistance system, as Distance Pilot DISTRONIC, automatically maintains the correct distance to vehicles in front by adjusting the car's higher desired speed to that of a slower-moving vehicle ahead before accelerating back up to the desired speed once the way ahead is clear again. With its Steering Pilot subfunction, it can also keep the E‑Class in lane up to speeds of 210 km/h. This can make life easier for the driver, who no longer needs to operate the brake or accelerator pedal during normal driving and also receives plenty of steering assistance – even on bends.
For orientation, DRIVE PILOT uses an enhanced multi-purpose stereo camera behind the windscreen and new radar sensors beneath the radiator grille and the rear bumper to detect road markings, the vehicle in front and also its surroundings. Consequently, at speeds up to 130 km/h, it is not dependent on clearly visible lane markings as it can continue to intervene actively, like in a swarm, if the lines on the road are unclear, e.g. at roadworks, or even if there are no lines on the road at all.
If COMAND Online is fitted, DRIVE PILOT can provide enhanced comfort through the selectable Speed Limit Pilot subfunction. By means of Distance Pilot DISTRONIC, it can autonomously adjust the vehicle's speed in response to camera-detected speed limits, including gantries and signs at roadworks, or speed limits logged in the navigation system, such as 50 km/h in built-up areas or 100 km/h on country roads.
Despite active longitudinal and transverse guidance with enhanced steering assistance, Drive Pilot continues to be designed as a semi-automated assistance system in which the driver still needs to keep their hands on the steering wheel. On the one hand, this is a technical necessity, while, on the other, it is a legal requirement. Intelligent hands-on detection provides a noticeably increased customer benefit while taking account of, for example, vehicle speed or road type and curvature. This can take the pressure off the driver and provide assistance, especially in bumper-to-bumper or congested traffic, yet also on long journeys. A contribution is also made by the intelligent and navigation-based design of the automatic restart after automatic stopping in stop-and-go traffic and traffic jams, such as on motorways up to 30 seconds.
Active Emergency Stop Assist can brake the vehicle to a standstill in its lane if it detects that the driver is permanently not taking control while on the move. If there is no steering wheel movement over a longer period when the Steering Pilot is active, the system gives the driver a visual and audible prompt to place his/her hands on the wheel. If, after being repeatedly warned, the driver does not react by steering, accelerating, braking or pressing a Touch Control button, the vehicle safely decelerates to a standstill in its lane and warns the traffic behind using the hazard warning flashers.
Lane-changing made easy
Impressive DRIVE PILOT innovations include an Active Lane-change Assistant, which assists the driver when changing lanes, e.g. when overtaking on multi-lane roads. Once the driver has indicated to turn for at least two seconds, the Active Lane-change Assistant helps with steering the vehicle into the desired adjacent lane if it detects that the lane is unoccupied. The driver merely monitors the change of lane. It is irrelevant whether the driver wants to move to the right-hand lane or change to the left lane for overtaking.
The criteria for operation of Active Lane Change Assist are:
  • operation of the turn indicator for longer than two seconds
  • the unoccupied zone detection system allows a lane change within three seconds
  • Steering Pilot is activated
  • vehicle travelling on a multi-lane, motorway-like road, detected via the navigation module integrated into COMAND Online
  • speed between 80 and 180 km/h
A long-range radar system and the stereo camera monitor the area in front of the vehicle, while multi-mode radar sensors permanently check the area to the rear and sides.
Active lane change is aborted by the system if the sensor system detects an obstacle, no longer sees lane markings, the driver countersteers or Steering Pilot is switched off.
Automatic braking in an emergency
Further assistance is provided by an Active Brake Assist with a significantly extended functionality compared with the standard basic functions. Its job is to warn the driver of imminent collisions, to optimally assist them during emergency braking and, if necessary, also to initiate autonomous braking. Mercedes-Benz's objective is thus to prevent collisions or at least to reduce their consequences.
Active Brake Assist likewise uses the radar sensors installed in the vehicle as well as the multi-purpose stereo camera. These enable it to detect whether the vehicle in front is slowing down, stopping or is stationary. If the system detects a risk of collision and the driver fails to respond to a collision warning or is late responding, the system automatically initiates autonomous braking.
The cross-traffic function of Active Brake Assist also detects cross-traffic and pedestrians in the danger area in front of the vehicle. Also in these cases, Active Brake Assist first warns the driver if there is a risk of collision, providing assistance if the driver fails to brake hard enough. If the driver fails to react, the system initiates braking automatically. If a pedestrian enters the danger area relatively late, the assistance system brakes simultaneously with the warning to allow the speed of the vehicle to be reduced faster.
Active Brake Assist is active in a speed range from 7 to 250 km/h for moving vehicles and can react to stationary vehicles between 7 and 100 km/h. Under ideal conditions, it can thus prevent a collision with a stationary vehicle up to around 70 km/h and a collision with pedestrians up to a speed of around 65 km/h. In end-of-tailback scenarios with no opportunity for evasive action, Active Brake Assist can automatically intervene even up to 130 km/h and, ideally, entirely prevent such especially dangerous rear-end collisions up to 100 km/h. Depending on the situation, the cross-traffic function is capable of preventing collisions with crossing traffic in a speed range up to around 70 km/h or reducing the severity of the collision. The system thus generally makes a significant contribution to preventing accidents or reducing their severity.
Active Brake Assist in the Driving Assistance package: Speed ranges
Reaction
Speed range
Collision avoidance
in longitudinal traffic to…
…moving and stopped vehicles
7 - 250 km/h
up to a relative speed of over 70 km/h
…stationary pedestrians
7 – about 70 km/h
65 km/h
…stationary vehicles with room for evasive action
7 – about 100 km/h
70 km/h
…stationary vehicles without room for evasive action (end of tailback)
7 – about 130 km/h
100 km/h
to crossing…
… pedestrians
7 – about 70 km/h
40 – 50 km/h depending on situation
… vehicles
7 – about 70 km/h
up to about 60 km/h depending on situation

Safe evasive action
The intelligent innovations of the Driving Assistance package include Evasive Steering Assist. This can help the driver to avoid a pedestrian detected by the assistance system using the radar sensors and multi-purpose stereo camera. If the driver initiates an evasive manoeuvre by turning the steering wheel, the system provides assistance by adding precisely calculated steering torque to support the movement of the steering wheel. This torque helps the driver to avoid the pedestrian in a controlled manner and then makes it easier to straighten the vehicle up again so that it can drive past safely. While the philosophy behind Evasive Steering Assist is to provide the driver with significant assistance, the initiative to take evasive action must come from the driver. This is because, if evasive action were automatic, a previously inattentive driver might be so surprised by the spontaneous movement of the steering wheel that they might react incorrectly and, for example, attempt intuitively to steer in the opposite direction.
Proven assistance systems
The intelligent assistance systems in the new Driving Assistance package also include, for example, proven systems that have been further developed in terms of their mode of operation and the sensors they use. Active Lane Keeping Assist can help stop the driver from unintentionally changing lane, this being done by corrective one-sided application of the brakes in the case of solid or broken lines and risk of collision, e.g. with oncoming traffic or fast overtaking vehicles. Active Blind Spot Assist can now also warn of the risk of a lateral collision in typical urban traffic at low speeds and, in addition, as before, correctively intervene at the last moment to prevent a lateral collision, e.g. with cyclists, at speeds above 30 km/h and activate the PRE-SAFE® belt tensioners. PRE-SAFE® PLUS can protect against collisions with following traffic and their impacts on the occupants by warning the vehicle behind, activating the PRE-SAFE® belt tensioners and, if stationary, by applying the brakes to stop the vehicle from being moved.
Modular range
The E-Class offers a modular range of driving assistance systems. In addition to the already extensive standard equipment specification, optional extras, as far as the Driving Assistance package, provide the possibility to individually configure the vehicle. A simple Distance Pilot DISTRONIC for comfortable longitudinal control is optionally available. Already in its purely advisory version, Blind Spot Assist is capable at low speeds of warning of vehicles, including cyclists, in the danger area. The Lane Tracking package adds an Active Lane Keeping Assist, which, already in the basic variant, is capable of warning against unintentional lane departure by vibrating the steering wheel and which, if the driver crosses a solid line, can correctively intervene by means of one-sided application of the brakes.
The functionality of Traffic Sign Assist has been extended to include, for example, a warning about people near zebra crossings and an extended wrong-way warning function, which is now also capable of warning about driving the wrong way into a one-way street or roundabout. In addition, the detection of stop signs has been coupled with the ECO start/stop function and is suitably taken into consideration by the latter.
Technology with future potential
To allow autonomous driving functions to be tested, test vehicles previously had to be elaborately equipped with special hardware and software. This included additional sensors, modified steering and an adapted ESP®. That is no longer the case with the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The series production vehicle is already extensively equipped with intelligent technology. This means that, for testing purposes, it is necessary merely to make some minor software modifications to the DRIVE PILOT control unit, the so-called "Intelligent Drive Controller". More specifically, changes were made only to Steering Pilot and Speed Limit Pilot. For example, Hands-On Detection was shut down and the steering dynamics were significantly increased. The new Mercedes-Benz E-Class is thus the world's first series production vehicle to be awarded a test licence for autonomous driving in the US state of Nevada. It also caused a sensation at this year's CES.
Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Active Braking Assist and Evasive Steering Assist, Protection against pedestrian accidents (german version)
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Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Active Braking Assist and Evasive Steering Assist, Protection against pedestrian accidents
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Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Active Brake Assist with Cross-Traffic Function, Autonomous braking also at junctions (german version)
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Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Active Lane Keeping Assist and Active Blind Spot Assist, Protects against accidents caused by vehicles in adjacent lanes (german version)
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Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Active Brake Assist with Cross-Traffic Function, Autonomous braking also at junctions
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Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Active Lane Keeping Assist and Active Blind Spot Assist, Protects against accidents caused by vehicles in adjacent lanes
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Mercedes-Benz E-Class, DRIVE PILOT (german version)
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Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Active Lane Change Assist, Supports steering into the neighbouring lane
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Mercedes-Benz E-Class, DRIVE PILOT
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Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Active Lane Change Assist, Supports steering into the neighbouring lane (german version)
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Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Beltbag (german version)
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Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Car-to-X Kommunikation
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Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Blind Spot Assist
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Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Digital Car Key, The Smartphone as car key
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Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Speed Limit Pilot
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Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Speed Limit Pilot (german version)
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Mercedes-Benz E-Class, PRE-SAFE PLUS, Occupant protection in case of impending rear-end collisions (german version)
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Mercedes-Benz E-Class, PRE-SAFE PLUS, Occupant protection in case of impending rear-end collisions
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Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Remote Parking Pilot, Getting into and out of narrow parking spaces (german version)
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Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Remote Parking Pilot, Exploration mode - Getting into and out of narrow Garage parking spaces (german version)
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Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Active Braking Assist, Congestion emergency braking function (german version)
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Mercedes-Benz E-Class, INTELLIGENT DRIVE next LEVEL
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Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Active Emergency Stop Assist,
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Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Active Emergency Stop Assist (german version)
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Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Traffic Sign Assist
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Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Traffic Sign Assist (german version)
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Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Active Brake Assist, Protection against front-end collision and collision with crossing pedestrians (german version)
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