Do you really need a selfie and video camera in your car? Mercedes-Benz seems to think so.
The new Mercedes-Benz E-Class has finally been revealed. Like its predecessors, the newcomer merges the latest and greatest technologies, with an even greater emphasis placed on luxury and convenience features. The interior is chock-full of nice-to-haves, including five available cameras that aim to improve driver safety and passenger comfort.
While some are useful, others may be considered a touch gimmicky. Whichever way you view them, there's an abundance of technology at your fingertips. But what does each of these cameras do? Let's take a look at what these cameras offer potential E-Class customers.
The only camera that comes standard, the mono driver camera is situated at the top of the instrument panel. This enables the vehicle to recognize and identify the driver and includes a rather clever safety system. If fitted with the optional passenger display, the mono driver camera can sense whether the driver is not focusing and dim the passenger screen to reduce driver distraction - something BMW wants to emulate.
This way, the passenger isn't affected and can continue streaming content without fear of distracting the person behind the wheel. Infrared technology means the system works even at night. Mercedes says it has verified the safety system in "extensive trials with test subjects."
The passenger display only works when someone is seated next to the driver. The screen displays a digital decorative panel with customizable motifs if the passenger side is unoccupied.
If you want to upgrade the mono-driver camera, Mercedes offers the E-Class with a stereo driver camera. Here, the camera is positioned in the 3D driver display. It basically serves the same purpose as the aforementioned system but adds pre-adjustment of the exterior mirrors, enhanced Attention Assist, and the 3D driver display to its roster.
That may not sound like much of an upgrade, but the stereo camera (in conjunction with Attention Assist) monitors the driver for signs of fatigue or inattentiveness. The system can detect signs of microsleep and issue a warning to the driver. Should the system detect that the driver's eyes are not focused on the road ahead, a series of acoustic and visual alerts will warn the driver once again.
Should the driver still not pay attention, an uninterrupted tone will sound. At this stage, it would be safe to assume the driver has fallen asleep or suffered a medical emergency; the E-Class will then prepare for an emergency stop, unlock the doors, and contact emergency services.
Two infrared gesture cameras positioned on the overhead control panel, are crucial to the operation of the MBUX Interior Assistant. The driver and passenger are treated to their own cameras, which support the front-row occupants using the onboard gesture system.
The Interior Assistant can read occupant movements and body language and anticipate their needs. Mercedes claims the camera system can interpret "natural hand, head, and body movements contextually." It will be interesting to put this to the test, as our past experiences with gesture control systems were less than desirable. This system also uses an infrared setup that makes the MBUX Interior Assistant useful regardless of the time of day.
Of all the bizarre optional extras we have seen, the RGB selfie and video camera found in the new E-Class is, perhaps, the most ridiculous of them all. Part of the optional MBUX Superscreen, the selfie and video camera sits atop the dashboard, enabling the driver to take photos of themselves. The camera features a wide-angle lens, transforming the background - side windows, roof lining - into a canvas for special effects.
It's a peculiar feature, but Mercedes has ensured the system can only work when the vehicle is stationary. There's another use, though. For example, if you find yourself stuck in traffic and need to attend a meeting, the camera can be used to participate in a video conference (via Webex or Zoom). This isn't the first time we've seen this; Flyme Auto, a screen-mirroring app from China, boasts video conferencing abilities and several other functions.
These apps can be installed on the vehicle's infotainment system, along with other applications like Angry Birds and TikTok. We're not sure why anyone would need this in their car, but it's in the new E-Class if you need it.
The optional RGB dash camera, which is located behind the rearview mirror, is used with Augmented Reality. If you're not sure what that is, Augmented Reality transforms the onboard navigation system by superimposing graphics, directional assistance, and traffic information on a live feed.
It sounds gimmicky, but it makes it far easier for drivers to follow a predetermined route with ease. The system is able to warn motorists of upcoming obstacles, like a sharp turn on a country road. This is handy when traveling on unfamiliar roads, especially at night.
While some of the examples described here are downright silly (we're looking at you, selfie and video camera), the majority are useful and bring untold benefits in terms of safety and convenience. We can't wait to experience all these gadgets once the E-Class touches down and hope it works as well as the manufacturer says it does.
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