Mercedes S-Class technology explained

* New S-Class set to offer high levels of technology * Improved safety and convenience equipment * Tech will be offered on smaller Mercs later...

Mercedes S-Class technology explained

Mercedes' 2013 S-Class will be one of the most technologically advanced cars when it goes on sale, with improvements to safety and convenience equipment.

The new model can offer systems that read the road up to 250m ahead, and can even watch out for vehicles that are approaching too fast from behind.

It uses 26 sensors collecting data from a combination of radar, infrared, ultrasonic and camera technology to scan the road ahead, to the side and behind the car, which help guide driver assistance and warning systems. Mercedes has also made improvements to the lighting and seatbelts in both the front and back seats.

The Mercedes S-Class's 26 sensors will perform a series of tasks, but their primary focus is making the new car even safer than its predecessors.

There are several new sensors, and Mercedes has put one on the back of the car for the first time. This allows it to monitor traffic approaching from behind, and take action if it is about to get rear-ended. It tightens up the seatbelts in the front and rear, and, if the car is stationary, applies the brakes to minimise whiplash. Mercedes says the system will flash the S-Class's hazard lights to warn the approaching car before the impact occurs.

A forward-pointing stereo camera allows the S-Class to see in 3D and judge how far away obstacles are. This means it can now spot pedestrians and apply the brakes to avoid an accident at speeds up to 50km/h (31mph), and partially at speeds up to 72km/h (45mph).

The systems can also pick up cars emerging from side roads for the first time, and issue a warning and apply the brakes if needed.

The drowsiness alert has also been upgraded, with drivers who know they are tired able to set the system to be more sensitive and cut in sooner. It can be set at five different levels and now works between 36mph and 120mph.

Other changes are to the lane keep assist system, which now recognises dashed lines as well as solid ones.

The biggest change is to the Distronic Plus cruise control system. It will be the one most welcomed by drivers who live in congested areas, because the new system reads the lines on the road and the speed of the car in front, it can then control both the car's speed and its steering.

It will disengage if it detects the driver is not holding the steering wheel, because Mercedes is keen for it not to be used while the driver checks their phone in traffic. It will work between speeds of 18mph and 120mph.

The new car's camera can read a wider range of road signs. The current S-Class can read speed signs, but the new model will be able to alert the driver to 'no overtaking' signs, and some 'no entry' signs.

Light bulbs out, extra vision in
Mercedes boasts that the 2013 S-Class will not have a single bulb on the outside instead it uses LEDs all round.

The front sensors can recognise a pedestrian at the side of the road, and flash a light at them to warn them that a car is approaching and also alert the driver. The new headlights will also automatically shield oncoming cars from being blinded by the car's full beam, meaning the driver need not dip them manually.

The rear lights have three levels, with the brightest setting for daytime. The next brightest is for when it is dark and the car is moving, while the dimmest setting is reserved for when the vehicle is stationary.

Rear passengers to get more protection
The back seat passengers get an increased level of protection in the new S-Class.

The seatbelts will automatically tighten in preparation for an accident, with the buckle pulling itself down into the seat. For convenience, the active buckle will also rise up out of the seat when the car door is opened.

They also contain an airbag, which means the belt will not cut into the passenger's body as harshly in the event of a crash.

By Tom Webster