By Roland Folger
Gone are the days when a car is considered only as a means of transport. In the modern era, it is all about being connected 24X7. It is rather fascinating to witness how communication, engagement and technological advances are necessities in the contemporary automobile industry. Be it talking on the phone via a Bluetooth- connected device or using an integrated map in a car’s interactive screen, consumers are always looking for ways that will keep them connected and make their driving experience a tad more convenient and pleasurable. Everyday customer requirements are also becoming increasingly differentiated and more individualised.
Being the inventors of the first automobile about 130 years ago, we at Mercedes-Benz have been privileged to see, develop and learn various technologies that have emerged over the years. One of our most renowned inventions dates back to August 1978, when we presented the second-generation anti-lock braking system (ABS), developed together with Bosch.
This unique technology enabled a driver to retain steering control even during emergency braking. Technology and cars are almost synonymous with the changing trends in society. What we consider a need today was considered a luxury earlier.
Technology In Cars
Technology in cars can be broadly divided into three key segments: Engine/drivability; safety features; and convenience/connectivity devices. Environmental sensitivity is a key influencer that has an impact on purchase decision of cars and also on the society’s brand perception of the automobile manufacturer. Thus, we at Mercedes-Benz develop fuel-efficient and environmentally-sustainable premium automobiles without compromising on the characteristic brand features – safety, comfort and refined driving pleasure.
Optimisation of vehicles with the very latest combustion engines – such as downsizing, gasoline direct injection, turbocharging and BlueTEC – as well as specific vehicles optimisation initiatives in areas such as aerodynamics, lightweight design and energy management (BlueEFFICIENCY) are some of the key technological advances from an engine output perspective. It includes optimisation of weight, aerodynamics, rolling resistance, energy management and powertrain. One of our latest developments is an innovative gearbox 9G-TRONIC, nine-speed automatic transmission with DIRECT SELECT lever, is the world’s first 9-speed automatic transmission in the luxury segment. It ensures a sportier and more dynamic driving thanks to more closely spaced gears that help in multiple downshifts and reduction in fuel consumption. Further efficiency improvements through individually tailored hybridisation in a number of stages – from the start/stop function through to the Two-Mode hybrid with full electric drive capability are inventions to reckon with.
Simple things like turning the car off and on in traffic signals used to consume more fuel and cause more pollution. Today we have relevant solutions. In a densely populated country like India, this particular feature works wonders and is available in most of our cars.
In parallel to hybrid concepts, Mercedes-Benz has been working intensively on solutions for purely electric driving using fuel cells and batteries since 1991.In India currently plug-in hybrids and electric cars are available from certain brands. Infrastructural challenges in terms of availability of multiple charging stations and steep pricing of these car variants seem to be a challenge for consumers to convert from a gasoline-powered engine to a hybrid or fully electric vehicles.
When it comes to safety, technology plays a pivotal role in determining its capabilities in adverse/unforeseen circumstances. We at Mercedes-Benz believe that safety comprises the safety of the passengers in the car, of others outside and of the environment at large.
We offer the best safety features like ESP, with Curve Dynamic Assist, Crosswind Assist, Brake Assistance System, Attention Assist, Airbags, Active Parking Assist, and PRE-SAFE, a groundbreaking system that can help prepare the occupants for an accident before it happens. PRE-SAFE can detect that certain types of collision might be imminent. In the precious moments before impact, it can snug the front seat belts and adjust the front head restraints to help optimise the effectiveness of the restraint systems in most of our cars across the world.
Today in India, we offer most of these world-class safety features. Owning to certain regulations, safety features like the DISTRONIC PLUS with Steering Assist and the Stop & Go Pilot: that allows the car to automatically keep up with the vehicle in front in tailbacks as well as assist with steering cannot be offered in the country. Essentially, these features work on a radar system for which the government needs to delicense certain radar frequencies.
Convenience, comfort and engagement play a vital role especially in the purchase decision of passenger cars for the evolving and tech-savvy consumers across the world. We at Mercedes-Benz thrive at offering the best-in-class features to fulfill the contemporary needs of the modern consumers. Features like Navigation, telephone, audio, video, internet, Wi-Fi hotspot, COMAND Online controller with New Generation Telematics, Touchpad, Parking Package with 360°Camera, Keyless GO Start/Stop, Dynamic Select (a special feature in certain cars where the driver gets to choose from five different modes to suit pertinent driving terrains) are offered to customers worldwide. We are glad that all the aforementioned features are available in India today.
Auto majors across the world are working on developing the next big thing in the automobile industry, ‘autonomous driving’. Progressing from the self-propelled (automotive) to the self-reliant (autonomous) vehicle, Mercedes-Benz, as a pioneer, goes far beyond the purely technical realisation of automated driving.
In August 2013, Mercedes-Benz S 500 INTELLIGENT DRIVE completed approximately a 100-kilometre journey from Mannheim to Pforzheim fully autonomously, following the route Bertha Benz took in 1888 on the first ever long-distance drive by car. Recently at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor show, we displayed the IAA (Intelligent Aerodynamic Automobile) that is capable of driving on its own and performing various functions like parking on its own, stopping automatically at a pedestrian crossing by automatically detecting human presence and so forth.
We invented the car and now, we are on the verge of introducing the self-driving car. It is an example of our commitment to creating the most intelligently connected vehicles on the road. With this self-driving luxury saloon Mercedes-Benz illustrates how the car is growing beyond its role as a means of transport to a private retreating space.