Mercedes-Benz has revealed the 2017 E-Class, and it’s fair to say this car raises the bar for automotive technological advancement, bringing to market features that aren’t even available in the brand’s flagship S-Class.
Key among the car’s features are automated parking via smartphone, with the driver outside of the car, an app that turns a smartphone into a smart key, automatic braking with evasive steering assist, car-to-car to communication, adaptive LED headlights, and an autonomous driving function more advanced than that in the S-Class.
A few weeks ago, we told you that Land Rover was working on tech that allowed a driver to control the car from outside of it via smartphone, and how Benz was developing automated parking. In the new E-Class, Benz is combining those two concepts in a smartphone-command automated parking system that the driver controls from outside the car (the phone needs to be within about 10 feet of the car). Install the app on your phone, pair it with the car, and away you go pulling the car into a parking stall, parallel parking space, or a garage crammed with gardening gear and bikes. The 2017 E-Class will be the first car to offer this function in a North American-market production car.
Another smartphone-related feature turns that device into a key that will unlock the car and allow it to be driven, just as current intelligent keyless entry systems do now with no-touch key fobs. Here, you will have to touch your phone, to hold it up to the driver’s door handle which will unlock via the same near-field communication protocol that allows smartphones to communicate directly with each other.
Mercedes-Benz takes the concept of automatic emergency braking a step further in the E-Class, adding the ability for the car to react to cars entering the road from sidestreets, or a pedestrian stepping off the sidewalk. In certain situations, evasive steering assist will “help” the driver swerve to avoid hitting that pedestrian by twisting the steering wheel in the direction initiated by the driver. The car won’t swerve on its own, however.
Car-to-car communication is a key tenet of autonomous driving, and Benz has incorporated that functionality to the new car. If you encounter a road hazard while driving your E-Class, pressing a button on the touchscreen will beam an alert to a dedicated network that will disseminate that information to other so-equipped Mercedes cars. As German automakers are working on a common communication standard, the future could include the ability to send and receive alerts from drivers of other vehicle makes, and to receive alerts from emergency vehicles. Like Google’s traffic reporting, the more vehicles on the network, the better the system will work.
Lane departure prevention is old hat by this point, but Benz’s new system is designed to guide the car not just by lane markings–which aren’t always clear, or even present–but by looking for guardrails, other cars travelling the same direction (in the same lane or an adjacent one), and even buildings by the roadside.
Benz’s first use of adaptive LED matrix headlights was on the CLS-Class, but the new E-Class brings an improved version of that lighting system that uses 84 LEDs–up from 24(!)–that can all work individually to switch between high and low beam, bend light around corners and talk to the navigation system to adjust lighting depending on location.
It’s rare for a carmaker’s tech showcase to be anything but a top-end model. Aside from being the brand’s latest design, the E-Class brings leading-edge tech to a fairly popular platform; while much–if not all–of this stuff will be optional, it’s nice to see so much cool tech debut in a car with a sub-six-figure pricetag.