What Car? Car of the Year awards 2010 - Safety winner

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Safety
The winner: Mercedes Benz
A clever monitoring system, fitted to all E-Class cars and every emerging new Mercedes-Benz model, combats drowsy driving

We’ve all felt it – that lapse towards drowsiness when driving down a motorway on a dark night in a warm car after a long and tiring day.

Most of us manage to snap out of it and stay awake long enough to get to the next service station for a coffee and a stroll around before cautiously continuing on our way. Some don’t, though, and the consequences hardly bear thinking about.

That’s where Mercedes’ Attention Assist feature, introduced on the latest E-Class at the start of the year, is so clever. In effect, it monitors your driving style continuously and compares it with your responses in the first 20 minutes of driving. If your driving then starts to waver, you get visual and audible warnings to stop and take a break. A cup-and-saucer symbol is the telltale sign that you need to stop.

How effective is it? In a demonstration for us, Mercedes sat one of its engineers down at a driving simulator after a long day at the office and watched his behaviour over a period of four hours. Cameras in the rear-view mirror checked his eye movements, while sensors on the steering wheel monitored the consistency of his steering inputs. This is how Attention Assist works.

Later, we were given a chance to sit at the same simulator, programmed to replicate various moments during that four-hour driving stint. It’s frightening how a smooth and consistent driver started to weave off line as tiredness took its grip.

Mercedes is so convinced of its life-saving potential that the system will become standard on every new or updated model.

What Car? Car of the Year awards 2010 - Hot hatch contenders

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