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First Drive Semi-Autonomous 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class +VIDEO

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By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
The Auto Channel

LISBON: When the new 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class was originally unveiled at the Detroit auto show in January 2016, there was already a lot written about its active and passive safety systems. Last summer, I joined a Mercedes-Benz tech-day (Includes VIDEO) where the new MB technologies were presented and demonstrated.

My first drive event with the 2017 E-Class Mercedes (W213) was partly the follow-up of the technology day. First, I drove an E 400 4Matic from a relay station to the Estoril race track near Lisbon, where Mercedes had put down a temporary building. There were several new technologies on display, such as the new 9G-Tronic automatic transmission, the new 2.0-liter diesel engine and a complete structure.

There was a room with a simulator, where you could drive virtually on the motorway and in the city. The engineers who had set up the ‘environment’ d really had done a great job: the Autobahn looked pretty real and I even recognized the famous Allianz Arena, the soccer stadium that is home of FC Bayern München.

The simulator demonstration included the Active Lane Change Assist that supports the driver when changing lanes and that automatically steers the car onto the next lane if the turn indicator is activated for longer than two seconds.

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The car also came to a full stop when I was talking to the engineer next to me and did not notice the end of a traffic jam. The same happened in the city: at a crossing the car notices another car nearing the crossing and applies the brakes.

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At the race track we had a realistic demonstration. A dummy, a rolling frame with a foam body, was sent to cross our path. Thanks to the innovative technology a crash was avoided. I also experienced that when the dummy was launched just a fraction of a second earlier, our car did nothing. The autonomous braking system calculated that the dummy was going fast enough to stay clear of. I knew I should do nothing, and I did not, but deep down inside my brain I registered the urge to briefly lift the throttle.

Longest list
Until now, car manufacturers always offered their innovations first of all in their flagship model. Not anymore, Mercedes-Benz uses the launch of the 10th generation E-Class to showcase all that is production ready right now. Of course, the S-Class, that will get a facelift next year will get the then latest technology.

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But at the moment, the new Mercedes E-Class has the longest list of assistant systems in the industry and it would go too far to highlight them all. I just mention the new addition of Remote Parking Pilot an option combined with the 360º Camera, which makes parking easy from a distance to up to 15 m/49 ft.

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Mercedes has combined modular driver assistance systems under ‘Intelligent Drive next Level’. Which includes standard Active Braking Assist, Crosswind Assist, Attention Assist, Pre-Safe and the new Pre-safe Sound, that was presented during last year’s technology day. There are single options, including the new Car-to-X Communication (Includes VIDEO) as part of Command Online.

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However, if you want so drive semi-autonomous in your new Mercedes E-Class you’ll have to chose the optional Driver Assistance Package, that consists of new technologies such as Drive Pilot, Active Braking Assist (including Cross Traffic Function and Congestion Emergency Braking) and Evasive Steering Assist, a complimentary function to the pedestrian detection function. The package also includes Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist and Pre-Safe Sound, that protects occupants’ ears from the noise of a collision.

Drive Pilot

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The Drive Pilot. It is based on Distronic that kept the distance to the car ahead and follows up to a speed of 130 mph and now has been extended with automatic re-start in stop and go traffic. The system also features Steering Pilot, that follows slight bends without the driver being active, monitors surrounding vehicles and parallel structures even without clear lines and can intervene. The camera and/or the navigation system detects speed limits and adjusts the vehicle speed accordingly.

On the road
Fortunately, during our first test drive with the 10th generation E-Class I did not come too close to other cars or pedestrians, so that the Collision Prevention Assist Plus system, that brakes autonomously to prevent a collision did not have to prove itself.

It was rush hour, when I drove on the motorway from Estoril to the hotel. Traffic moved slow, but every now and then the speed was increased or almost came to a standstill. But it was a great opportunity to experience the semi-autonomous driving qualities of the E-Class. I did not need to steer through slight bends, nor to accelerate or slow down, or pay keep a safe distance.

Everything the Mercedes did was smooth and felt comfortable. Except for the time that a car behind me approached pretty fast. Too fast to the likings of my E-Class, so the seat belt was tightened and – invisible to me – the driver was warned by pulsing my brake lights. No harm done!

If you get really lazy and take your hands from the steering wheel there will be a warning, depending on the situation, such as speed and surrounding traffic. If you ignore this and do not touch the steering wheel again, the system beeps and gradually decreases the speed. From 60 km/h, or 37 mph down, the hazard warning lights will automatically be turned on and the car slowly comes to a halt. However, it will not go onto the emergency lane, as the technology regards a continuous solid line as non-transversable.

So for the semi-autonomous technology in the new E-Class, be prepared, but do not be afraid, there will always be a choice and enjoy driving yourself.

Please stay tuned for more details about the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class

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