Complete with a portable robot.
Mercedes-Benz has long prided itself on advancing safety technologies and now that we’re on the cusp of a new era of autonomous driving, these technologies must be adapted appropriately. Meet the Experimental Safety Vehicle (ESF) 2019, a heavily modified Mercedes GLE with a plug-in hybrid powertrain. The safety concept crossover will debut next month at the ESV convention in the Netherlands and will then have its first public appearance at Frankfurt in September.
The ESF 2019 is focused on all-around driver safety specifically when in automated mode. The steering wheel and pedal cluster retract in order to reduce the risk of injury if there’s a crash. Thanks to greater interior flexibility, Mercedes designed new restraint systems, specifically seat belts and airbags.
Seat belts are now integrated into the seats and there’s a new driver airbag in the dashboard and integral side airbag in the side bolsters of the seat backrests. Mercedes’ head of vehicle safety, Rodolfo Schoneburg, said these new features "take into account the greater interior flexibility offered by autonomous vehicles. The great advantage of automating driving functions is that, in the future, fewer accidents will be caused by driver error. However, fully automated and driverless vehicles also come up against physical limits and there will undoubtedly be mixed traffic consisting of automated and non-automated vehicles for many years.”
This one-off GLE also has a new interior lighting function incorporated into the driver’s sun visor. Why? Because studies have shown a light source can drastically improve drivers' mood and alertness.
Another feature involves an update to the automaker’s Pre-Safe belt tensioners with what’s called Pre-Safe Curve. This system warns the driver if the vehicle’s entry speed to corners is too high by automatically tightening the seatbelt, although lightly so. Child safety is also essential. There’s a new Pre-Safe Child function which preventively tensions the seatbelt and then inflates impact protection around the child just prior to a crash. This reduces impact forces on the child. The system can even monitor the seat installation as well as the child’s vital signs.
The GLE’s exterior incorporates a number of new safety features, among them digital surfaces incorporated into the grille, roof, and rear window. Even when the vehicle is parked, these surfaces communicate directions and other important information and can also warn pedestrians of incoming danger.
There’s also something called Digital Light, a high-definition light with a resolution of more than two million pixels. A small robot has even been developed to serve as a warning triangle which secures the vehicle immediately post-accident (there’s another warning triangle that folds out of the roof). This robot is normally located at the rear of the vehicle when not in use. Many of these safety technologies are still several years away, while others will soon be seen in production models.