The next Mercedes-Benz S-Class can jump out of the way of a crash, make way for ambulances, project warnings onto the road and cloak rear passengers in tentlike airbags.
Set to be revealed in September before going on sale next year, the S-Class is Mercedes’ range-topping sedan, a model chosen by millionaires and VIPs around the world.
Benz has teased would-be customers with drip-fed information in recent weeks, confirming the car will offer cutting-edge tech such as facial recognition within its infotainment and connectivity systems.
The high-resolution head-up display features hologram-like augmented reality, projecting video game-like arrows on the road ahead, and new “digital light” headlights can project symbols onto the road, telling pedestrians it is safe to cross or warning the driver if they’re following the car in front too closely.
A sophisticated stereoscopic dashboard display also offers hologram-like 3D visuals, and an enormous central screen does away with myriad buttons and dials.
The latest announcements concern safety.
Adaptive suspension in the luxury sedan can rise in an instant if a side-on crash is imminent, protecting passengers by putting the strong lower frame of the car in harms’ way, as opposed to the doors.
Inflatable seat bolsters pump up to push passengers away from the doors and windows, and a new centre airbag prevents the driver and passenger from clattering into each other in a side impact.
World-first front-facing airbags for back seat passengers wrap them in tentlike cocoons to reduce the severity of injuries in a frontal crash.
The changes join existing features such as seatbelt-mounted airbags and a loud burst of static noise played through the speakers prior to airbags going off, triggering a natural auditory reflex that could save passengers’ hearing in a big smash. Other Mercedes models are already capable of moving to the side of the road and stopping if the driver is unresponsive, and the new model builds on that feature by moving onto highway shoulders in a traffic jam to make away for emergency services.
Aggressive new rear-wheel-steering makes the car easier to park than before (while increasing its self-parking capabilities), and the car’s air suspension builds on the current model’s ability to scan the surface ahead, preparing shock absorbers to handle imperfections in the road.
Next-generation driving aids should help you avoid a crash, and a stronger body will do more to protect passengers should the worst occur.
The S-Class is a huge deal for Mercedes, a model that traditionally has more technology than any other model offered by the brand.
But Benz is less likely to tell you that some of this tech is already on the road.
The new Toyota Yaris has a front centre airbag, Tesla’s Model 3 was the first car to bring a near-buttonless cabin, Audi’s A8 can raise its suspension to mitigate side-impact crashes, the upcoming Genesis GV80 is on sale overseas with a 3D digital dash, and Subaru’s Forester uses facial recognition to store a driver’s preferred settings.
But no car combines all of those features with genuinely fresh tech (such as the rear airbags) like the upcoming S-Class, a model likely to cost at least $200,000 when it arrives next year.