‘Mercedes-Benz’s goal is to provide safety worldwide.’

Jochen Feese, Head of Accident Research, Sensor Functions, Pedestrian Protection, Mercedes-Benz Cars, Daimler AG, speaks to Shobha Mathur on the company’s integrated safety programme.

By Shobha Mathur calendar 30 Apr 2015 Views icon3220 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
‘Mercedes-Benz’s goal is to provide safety worldwide.’

Jochen Feese, Head of Accident Research, Sensor Functions, Pedestrian Protection, Mercedes-Benz Cars, Daimler AG, speaks to Shobha Mathur on the company’s integrated safety programme.

How does Mercedes-Benz’s integrated safety strategy work?
We have a strategy that is a comprehensive approach to safety. This is an integrated safety strategy which can be divided into four different phases – the driver who is driving in a safe condition and we want to support him by giving some hints like he is getting tired. Later, when a critical situation is coming up, we want the car to send a signal about its situation so as to protect the driver and prepare the car and its passengers for a possible crash. What we are working on are active safety systems that could act semi-autonomously or fully autonomously.

The challenge there is always to sense the situation in a correct way. For example, for full autonomous braking that we are doing currently, you have to be really sure. Looking into the future, we are doing research and pre-development work on the fully autonomous driving vehicle where the passenger is not in the loop. These days the driver has always to be in the loop; for the future, we have a vision that the driver should be out of the loop and can enjoy other things also, and can do something else with his time.

When will this technology be brought in Mercedes-Benz cars?
I think for fully autonomous driving, there are laws that have to be drafted or new laws created. If a computer is driving the vehicle, it has many decisions to make. Things like which way to go, and if there’s a pedestrian darting across, then corrective action. This requires much research and discussion on how to deal with the situation but you will see steps towards it. In the near future, you will see cars that automatically park themselves and call the owner.

Are the technologies Mercedes-Benz provides globally also in the cars it sells in India? 
Our strategy is always to provide our safety systems worldwide. The difference is that, unfortunately, in some countries we need regulations in certain areas, so that we can offer our systems. For example, if we are looking at active safety systems that are based on radar systems, there are some frequencies that we are using that at the moment we cannot utilise in India. I worked for four-and-a-half years in Japan on negotiations in Japan on such frequency de-regulation. Finally, we could offer our systems in Japan as they are saving lives; we hope that in India we are successful with this.

Radar-based driver assistance systems have helped improve road safety in many countries worldwide. India is currently updating its National Frequency Allocation Plan (NFAP). Are you following up on the proposal made by Mercedes-Benz India to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to regulate as license-free the frequency bands? What is the latest development on this subject?
As I know, there are colleagues here in India who are in continuous dialogue and communication with the government. That is normal with every country as there are so many stakeholders like telecom, military, radio astronomy and exploration and they are all looking at frequencies and have to start communication on that but you need the government to support it also. I don’t think they have a clear target to start the de-regulation route and it is very tough.

Won’t de-licensing of the frequencies concerned give Mercedes, an automotive safety leader, a big boost in the competitive Indian market?
Well, let’s say such new radar technology is most of the time introduced in the high-end car lines because their customers can also afford them. But the target is always to bring down costs for those systems and these days we are offering these systems in the lower classes of our vehicles also. And this will definitely be for the people a big benefit. Also, if one OEM is offering these systems, others will also offer it and at the end of the day it will be a boost for safety. 

Mercedes-Benz’s global R&D centre is working on 25 new innovative ideas. Are they separate from the integrated safety strategy?
The 25 ideas are related to our experimental safety vehicle (ESV) that we have on display at the ‘Safe Roads’ exhibition. It is our long tradition to incorporate new ideas on safety on such experimental safety vehicles. These are similar to what you see in motor shows where there are new styling concepts and concept vehicles on display. We do this with safety systems – we have put on display what we did in 2009 with about 25 new ideas. Overall, Mercedes is working on much more new ideas in research. Our goal is to provide safety worldwide.

 

How do you propose to take the experimental safety vehicle across India?
The road show will visit different cities like Chennai, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Pune and Bangalore to connect with people, not only those who can afford cars like Mercedes but also young people in universities. We want to show to young people what safety is about – from the basic principles like seatbelts up to future systems. Some of them are incorporated but a lot are not in vehicles these days.

Are some of the technologies shown in the ESF yet to be leveraged in Mercedes cars?
The ESF has some crossbars on the side along with an inflation unit. This will blow up the metal structure and thus reinforce it. So when a side crash occurs, the stiffness of the car on the side will be much higher; this is a very unique idea to implement and it is a visionary concept.

Is it undergoing testing?
Yes we are testing it and are also bringing it into serious production. There is a spot-light function in the ESF’s front light. When there are pedestrians next to the road in dark or poorly lit locations, the car can detect them and throw a spot light on them, thereby immediately drawing the attention of the driver to them. We have it in some of our vehicles.

Are there any other safety systems in the ESF yet to be incorporated?
Yes, on the front passenger seat, we have an adaptive airbag that adapts its size to the person sitting on the seat. The force is thereby uniformly distributed in an adaptive airbag in a crash.

 

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