It’s no secret that safety isn’t the most interesting topic to bring up when talking about cars, with this writer usually having to battle unusually-heavy eyelids whenever discussing the subject. But in recent years the safety topic has been given a shot up the arm thanks to developments in artificial intelligence technology & self-driving capabilities, which has inadvertently brought safety out from behind-the-scenes and pushed it right into the forefront of the buying public’s consciousness.
The thing is, these developments aren’t just the result of recent technological breakthroughs. The Enhanced Safety of Vehicles Conference (or ESV Conference) has been around since the year 1970, an initiative by the NATO Committee on the Challenges of Modern Society, designed to develop experimental safety vehicles and concepts that would advance the research, development, and production of safety features & offerings for production cars.
Mercedes-Benz has always been an active participant in the ESV with several prototypes & concepts over the years, but the focus of today’s article is the ESF 2019 concept vehicle, which has been unveiled and detailed ahead of this years’ ESV Conference.
Based on a Mercedes-Benz GLE Plug-In Hybrid, the ESF2019 throws a whole raft of advanced experimental safety features at the thing in an attempt to make it damn-near uncrashable. A fully-autonomous vehicle, the ESF2019 is perhaps most notable due to its cacophony of lights, designed to allow the car to effectively communicate to other drivers and pedestrians whenever the vehicle is doing its thing.
Say for example that a pedestrian wants to cross the street, ahead of an approaching ESF2019. The car will be able to use its grille-mounted LED screen to communicate to the pedestrian that it’s safe (or unsafe) to cross, in place of a human driver waving a hand or nodding in acknowledgement of said pedestrian.
Should a more urgent situation arise, the ESF2019 sports electro-sensitive paint that responds to electrical current, allowing for the entire vehicle to turn into a warning beacon should there be an inattentive cyclist, driver, or pedestrian approaching the ESF2019 in a way that it reckons it might not be able to avoid an impact.
A further step to communicate to the outside world is the inclusion of an opaque LED screen in place of the rear windscreen, which acts as a way for the car to communicate to other vehicles and drivers behind it, to explain what’s going on ahead of the thing. There’s also a warning triangle that deploys from the roof in case of a properly-hazardous situation, as well as a robot that can drop from the butt of the car and create a visual warning well behind the vehicle, to alert drivers that there’s a hazard ahead.
Step inside and you’re greeted by a redesigned steering wheel, with its shape & aesthetic designed primarily in order to be easily retracted into the dashboard. Even the pedals have been redesigned, so that they can be ‘taken away’ when the driver launches the Level 4-autonomous driving function.
For drivers with young children, Mercedes-Benz has you covered. There’s a new feature they’re exploring called ‘Pre-Safe Child’ that essentially takes the form of a highly-advanced car seat. It’s made of carbon-fibre (phwoah) and it swivels into position. It’s so intelligent that it features a variety of lit displays to explain to drivers/parents how the car seat has not been installed properly. Should you have managed to fit the thing the first time in, you can then plug the seat into the USB-C port on the seatbelt (yes you read that correctly), which then enables the seat to provide heart-rate monitoring capabilities as well as a live video feed displayed on the digital instrument cluster.
This then negates the need for drivers to look away from the road for rear-facing child seats, allowing parents to just glance at a panel to know exactly what’s going on with the little one at the rear.
But the biggest feature of the Pre-Safe Child seat is the built-in rod in the side. This rod fires from the side of the seat and pushes against the passenger door in the event of a side-impact, creating an accelerative force ahead of a collision that’ll reduce the severity of forces experienced by the toddler in the seat. And that rod is charged up every time you install the seat.
ESF2019 stands as a testament to Mercedes-Benz’s ongoing commitment to safety, and their position as a thought leader in safety innovation. The ESF2019 will be shown at the 2019 ESV Conference, after which it’ll make its way to the 2019 Frankfurt motorshow for public display.