Every new Mercedes-Benz S-Class has a wide variety of new features that often blow us away. Whether it’s Mercedes inventing something completely new, or simply improving an older technology, the S-Class consistently sets the bar for every other great luxury car in the world.
If you want a broader overview of what the new S-Class looks like, check out our full reveal post covering the car from bumper to bumper. Here we are going to take a closer look at the new gadgets and gadgets owners find hidden in their new Mercedes.
As cars become more digital, they often remind us of our smartphones. Mercedes is diving right in here with some serious biometrics. It’s all there to personalize the driving experience. You can program up to seven different profiles (for seven different drivers) in the car. Mercedes estimates that these profiles can store up to “approximately 800” parameters for a specific driver. Radio presets, mood lighting, seat settings and driver assistance settings are just a few examples of things that can be saved in a profile.
To access these profiles, the S-Class allows you to use a few different methods. Biometrics installed in the car includes facial recognition system, fingerprint reader and speech recognition. The facial recognition reminds us of Subaru’s driver monitoring system that automatically reads a person’s face when they sit down and then applies their personal settings to the car. Mercedes does the same, but you have to use the 3D instrument panel to get facial recognition. For the fingerprint reader, Mercedes has placed the sensor just below the 12.8-inch central touchscreen. All your settings are loaded when the printout is recognized. If you want something old-fashioned, Mercedes also lets you set up a PIN to access your profile.
There is more to this than you can possibly imagine. Mercedes has used exotic lighting on several of its recent concept cars as a luxury and safety feature. The new S-Class is the same both inside and out. We’ll start from within because that’s the most intriguing part for us Americans (more on that later).
Ambient lighting in Mercedes has long been one step ahead of other applications and the S-Class goes one step further. It now includes what Mercedes calls ‘active mood lighting’. It is “active” because it works in conjunction with driver assistance systems to amplify warnings and warnings. For example, if you turn on your turn signal while someone is in your blind spot, the lights will quickly flash red in a warning to stop what you are doing. The lights also change color as you adjust the climate control, pulsing blue for cooler temperatures and red for warmer adjustments. Mercedes says the lights themselves are much improved from the previous one, with more and brighter lights than before. You can of course always dim the lamps to black if you don’t want to be bothered at night.
Looking outside, we see that Mercedes has made the optional “Multibeam LED” lighting standard for the S-Class in this generation. However, the rest of the world (not the US) has an even more impressive lighting option called “Digital Light” (photo). Inside the Digital Light modules are three extremely powerful LEDs whose light is refracted and then controlled by 1.3 million micro mirrors. These micro mirrors only take up the same space as a human miniature, so yes, micro is the correct description here. The mirrors are also able to divide the light into as many pixels as there are mirrors, making 2.6 million pixels of light for each vehicle. With that extreme number of pixels, Mercedes is able to project the most accurate light distribution to date. The technology is similar to that of a video projector and uses a graphics processor to generate the continuous video stream to the mirrors. .
It’s so good that the lights can project guidelines or warning symbols onto the road. For example, if the car recognizes that road works are in progress, it projects a traffic sign on the road for you to see. Traffic light symbols, stop sign symbols and more can also be projected onto the road as a warning to the driver. It shines a spotlight on pedestrians near the road as you approach, alerting both you and the pedestrian. Thanks to the navigation system’s topographic readout, it can also adjust the light over hills so that when you drive up a hill, the lights turn down towards the road instead of illuminating the sky above you.
This technology is ridiculously great, and we are constantly saddened that US regulations prohibit such lights on US roads. The safety benefits of these latest lamps are obvious, but you will have to travel elsewhere in the world to experience them.
Driver assistance systems
We have been hearing for a while about level 3 autonomy with the new S-Class. However, when we received the US press release, there was no mention of level 3 autonomous driving. When we examined the European information, we discovered that Mercedes intends to offer such capabilities. However, it won’t hit German streets until the second half of 2021. And as of today, there’s no date when it will hit American (or even other European) streets.
Mercedes calls the level 3 system ‘Drive Pilot’. It can be used “in situations of high traffic density or in traffic jams, on suitable motorway sections in Germany.” (And by the way, “traffic jams” means traffic jams.) Mercedes says that when the system is active, the driver has the freedom to do other activities, such as browsing the Internet or texting. You don’t have to touch the steering wheel or pedals. That said, there are still plenty of limitations. Currently, German law does not allow the system to operate at speeds above 60 km / h (although Mercedes says it is capable of higher speeds), making it impossible to use in anything other than a traffic jam. Mercedes also states that “the driver must remain ready to take control and be able to continue to drive the vehicle manually within 10 seconds.” That does not mean sleeping. Mercedes has even implemented a driver monitoring system similar in concept to Cadillac’s Super Cruise, which constantly monitors head and eye movements. If you don’t satisfy the computer, you have to take the wheel again. If the driver does not respond to all the commands from the car, he will eventually stop the car in its lane and unlock the doors.
Drive Pilot is realized by a number of extra sensors on the car. In addition to all standard sensors, Mercedes uses lidar, one additional rear camera in the rear window and more external microphones. The latter two are especially helpful in identifying emergency vehicles coming from behind, a common occurrence in traffic jams. A high-precision digital HD map is also essential for its operation and provides the car with information on road geometry, route profile, road signs and traffic accidents (the latter uses the car’s Internet connection for the latest information). The location of the vehicle is found through maps which are also much more accurate than a normal GPS system.
Mercedes says the system is ready for introduction to the US market, but is waiting for the legal situation to allow such technology in a production car.
The second automated system we’ll discuss here is parking. Mercedes says the new S-Class is equipped with Level 4 autonomy technology in specific parking situations. It’s called “Automatic Valet Parking”, and it’s a true driverless parking technology. Assuming you are in a well-equipped parking garage, you can drop your car off at a designated location, press a button on your Mercedes app from outside the car and it will start looking for a parking space. You don’t have to observe or intervene, the S-Class can handle it all. Once you return to drive home, call your car through the app and you will be met at the designated valet pick-up area. Mercedes says this all depends on the regulations in your region, and no message is coming to the US yet.
With a smaller parking package, you can control your car remotely with simple parking maneuvers, similar to Hyundai’s Smaht Pahk. You stand outside the car, hold down a button on your phone and the S-Class squeezes into or out of a parking space.
For in-depth details on the infotainment system, see our detailed dive on everything screen related in the new S-Class. Any questions you may have about the second generation MBUX and how it interacts with the new S-Class can be answered here. Trust us, there is plenty to learn.