It may sound like fiction, but Mercedes is determined to haul automotive safety standards into a new era of “accident-free driving” using the power of artificial intelligence. The company’s recent technological advances in safety represent a move towards cars that can either mitigate or prevent their own collisions on behalf of drivers. A turnkey technology essential to this effort called “6D Vision” is set to debut in the next-generation Mercedes S-Class in early 2014.
The World in Six Dimensions
Mercedes-Benz; along with parent company Daimler, have a solid and enduring legacy of contributions to occupant protection. For decades, the Benz marque pioneered technologies which have become pillars of modern automotive safety, from anti-lock brakes to airbags and “crumple zones.”
Now, Stuttgart’s world-class engineers have developed a microchip-enabled platform that syncs with radar to provide real-time imaging of the car’s immediate environment. The system empowers a car to accurately ‘see’ other automobiles, drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians or any other hazard, 360 degrees in every direction.
The car’s “eyes” perceive not only three-dimensional positions, but also three dimensions of motion, including direction and speed—hence the name ‘6D Vision’. This means your Mercedes-Benz instantly knows where an object is, where it is going and exactly how fast. It can then take appropriate action within a split-second—200 milliseconds, to be precise. The car could, for instance, swerve around a child that’s stepped into traffic, or avoid a parked car’s door that swings open into the lane.
In November 2011, key members of Daimler’s research team received the Karl Heinz Beckurts prize to wide acclaim for their contributions to the science of stereo processing and recognition in the making of ‘6D.’ The award credits their development of wave imaging and original algorithms to rapidly analyze moving objects in the environment, making possible a substantial reduction in real-world collisions.
It’s the first time a vehicle has been so efficiently rigged to read risk factors and movements with such minimal hardware. The live data stream can be instantly converted into lifesaving steering and braking decisions. Mercedes believes this technology could prevent thousands of accidents a year, particularly in those low-visibility conditions in which even the most conscientious driver can make critical mistakes, from rainstorms and nighttime to blind curves and busy intersections.
2014 S-Class: Intelligence in Action
The all-new 2014 S-Class will be the first to showcase the fruits of 6D Vision with the “Intelligent Drive” platform, the luxury sedan’s fully-networked safety suite. Intelligent Drive’s integrated components include lane-keeping and blind-spot assist, infrared night navigation, high-beam assist, adaptive cruise control and drowsiness detection. Many of these functions depend on inputs from the car’s six-dimensional vision.
The S-Class is an appropriate setting for the debut of the latest advances. S-Class sedans are often the company’s choice for test driving new safety inventions like 6D. In fact, the world’s first driverless car was an S-Class, way back in the 1980s. It was also the first car in Europe to carry air bags.
Professor Thomas Weber, Head of Group Research, Mercedes-Benz Cars Development, reflects on the capabilities of the anticipated S-Class: “This unrivaled interplay of highly advanced safety technology broadens the ‘senses’ of the automobiles and increases their intelligence.”
“It makes them ‘thinking’ partners that can see, feel, react reflexively, and act autonomously in order to support the driver actively in critical situations.”
The Future of Safety: Autonomous Driving?
Good sense has long underscored the importance of the driver to automobile safety. Despite some reservations, the overall prognosis is looking sunny for high-tech, intelligent safety features like 6D Vision. As states like California and Florida move to regulate autonomous vehicles, excitement about making the safety standards of the future today’s reality is gaining momentum. Keep an eye out in the near term for more record-breaking intelligence and unreal safety advances from the folks at Mercedes-Benz.