The updated S-Class will spearhead Mercedes-Benz’s use of next-level autonomous technology by offering an extended range of driver assistance systems that will eventually feature on all of the company’s models. The new features include Active Distance, which can provide fully autonomous acceleration and braking within legal speed limits on a route programmed into the car’s upgraded navigation system. The autonomous driving function is part of a revised Distronic cruise control system. It promises improved safety as well as ’set and forget’ speed limit assurance by strictly adhering to posted and temporary speed limits in an urban environment, on country roads and out on the motorway.
The development is being touted as a key step towards fully autonomous driving. The Active Distance function reduces speeds in bends, at roundabouts, junctions and toll booths, bringing the car to a halt when necessary and then autonomously speeding up again when the road conditions and the speed limit allow. The mapping data that facilitates this is described by Michael Hafner, Mercedes’ automated driving and active safety boss, as being “significantly more intelligent” than that of previous systems.
The system, which will be offered as an option on the S-Class, is accessed via buttons on a steering wheel rather than Mercedes’ standard cruise control stalk. It relies on an upgraded stereo camera mounted within the windscreen to scan road signs. It also uses an improved long-range radar system capable of operating at up to 250m in front of the car to support the driver and autonomously brake the S-Class to a standstill should it detect an obstacle.
Active Distance can be switched between three driving modes that alter the character of the autonomous functions: Eco provides a conservative driving style for maximum fuel savings: Comfort aims for more serene progress: and Sport maximises accelerative potential and provides later and more severe braking. The revised S-Class will be revealed in April and go on sale this autumn. Prices are likely to rise over those for the current model, which starts at £70.370.