It drives itself. It brakes itself. It parks itself. It is set to be more luxurious than ever and it is definitely more autonomous than ever. The 2017 Mercedes-Benz S-Class has been tested from the passenger’s seat, month before its official release. The sedan is the step the three-pointed premium brand makes to fully automated driving.
A car that is impossible to crash? A sedan that will keep you away from speed tickets? The facelifted high-end sedan will get the newly developed Active Distance feature that provides autonomous acceleration and braking over any journey programmed via the upgraded Comand Online 5.5 sat-nav system, but also an upgraded Active Speed Limit Assist function.
The fresh version of the Distronic cruise control with new graphics available in both the instrument cluster and the head-up display, comes with new autonomous driving functions for improved safety and with the capability of adjusting the speed according to the route, braking for bends, decelerating when approaching motorways exists and stopping when the driver indicates to turn across the path of oncoming traffic.
When engaged, the Active Distance function, with its operability based on data provided by the digital mapping, reduces speed in bends, at roundabouts, junctions and tollbooths, stopping the car when necessary and autonomously speeding up again when road conditions and speed limit in the area permit it.
The newly configured Dynamic Select System will allow setting the car in three driving modes: Eco, Comfort and Sport, with the letter providing maximum accelerating potential and more severe braking. The speed the bends are entered into also depends on the driving mode.
The facelifted S-Class offers accurate reworked autonomous steering up to 30 seconds before it asks the driver to put his hands on the steering wheel. The Active Lane Change Assist, Active Emergency Stop Assist, Active Brake Assist and Remote Parking Assist will be lifted from the E-Class.
With all driving assistant system on, the ride proves how far Mercedes has come in autonomous driving and how close to fully automated rides. With a route programmed via the Comand Online navigation system, the S-Class starts off, accelerating its way out of the Mercedes technical center right outside Stuttgart.
Meanwhile, the car adds up information provided by the stereo camera, by the long distance radar and digital mapping data from the navigation system, while driving along a 6-lane autobahn, winding roads and urban streets. The only intrusion from the driver’s side is an occasional touch of the newly designed multi-functional steering wheel.
The car doesn’t fail to follow the speed limits for a single second, it accelerates and brakes on its own, with no pressure for the man behind the wheel. It is, after all, a job of scanning road signs.
When exiting the autobahn, the predictive and anticipative S-Class autonomously brakes. It identifies the corner ahead and adjusts speed accordingly. Then the car accelerates back up to the 70 km/h limit with the driver’s foot coming anywhere near the throttle pedal. Furthermore, the S-Class can see the temporary speed limits in sectors under construction, even when the signs are partially hidden.
With months left until its official debut, the systems fitted in the S-Class are far from perfect yet. The Active Speed limit Assist still has to work on identifying the different speed limits when the sign on the side of the road shows different figures depending on the time of day. And one more failure: the car never saw the temporary sign warning of an oil spillage. “We’re working on it”, says the head of automated driving and active safety, Michael Hafner.
Still heavily camouflaged, the S-Class will come with several design changes. Front and rear bumpers will feature a slightly different drawing and the LED headlights and taillights will bring a new cluster design.
Find out what the 2017 Mercedes-Benz S-Class facelift headlights can do right HERE!
The engine range from the current S-Class is likely to be heavily revised. On the road to electrification, Mercedes will roll out a new 48V mild hybrid system. A facelifted Mercedes-AMG S 63 is also on its way and it has already been spotted while testing at the Nurburgring.