Mercedes-Benz improves safety for the smallest passengers in child seats

by Autocar Pro News Desk , 08 Jun 2019


A new concept for child safety in the ESF 2019 Experimental Safety Vehicle which was recently presented by Mercedes-Benz shows how protection for children can be further improved. With this child seat with PRE-SAFE functions, the seatbelts are preventively tensioned before a crash and side impact protection elements are extended. Monitoring of seat installation and the child's vital signs are other functions integrated into the seat.

At this year's Child Safety Day on 10 June the safety experts from Mercedes-Benz will be presenting a development offering greater protection for the smallest vehicle occupants in the future mobility sector.

Mercedes-Benz is a pioneer in active and passive safety; its in-house accident research department was established 50 years ago, and in 2002 PRE-SAFEheralded a new era in the field of preventive occupant protection. PRE-SAFE is able to prepare vehicles and their occupants for an impending accident, thus ensuring that the protective potential of seat belts and airbags is exploited to the full, for example.

To protect the youngest passengers, Mercedes-Benz has presented a special seat with PRE-SAFE function in ESF 2019. More details will be revealed at this year's 'Child Safety Day', which is organised by the Federal Association 'Mehr Sicherheit für Kinder e.V.' and has been held annually on 10 June since 2000. The event, which is intended to instil an awareness of accident hazards in parents and children, focuses on a different safety hazard for children each year. In 2019 the spotlight is on 'Making the home safe together', with the aim of drawing attention to hazards for children in the home. 'Home' now also extends to the car in which the family heads off into the weekend or on holiday. The priority here is on safe travel.

Monitoring of the child seat installation process
The onus is first and foremost on parents to ensure safe travel for children – be they in the front passenger seat or in the rear seats. A study published by insurance company accident researchers (UDV) in October 2018 found that almost one in two child seats are not correctly installed in the car. 48 percent of the 1,042 children examined were not correctly secured in their child seats. The main causes were seat installation errors and incorrect belt fastening.

The networked child seat with PRE-SAFE Child (from birth to age four/ 40-105cm, to 18kg: rearward-facing up to 15 months), which has been unveiled in the ESF 2019 Experimental Safety Vehicle, reduces the risk of such incorrect installation. The child seat is connected with the vehicle via a wireless link and equipped with its own installation monitoring system: eight symbols directly on the seat guide the user through the individual installation steps in self-explanatory manner and indicate when the seat has been fitted correctly. The link with the vehicle means that installation of the seat can also be checked and monitored on the media display from the driver's seat and the front passenger seat.

Before an impending crash, the seatbelts of the child safety seat are preventively tensioned and side-mounted impact protection elements are extended if the triggering threshold of PRE-SAFE is reached.

Added safety from belt pretensioning and side impact protection
The special protective functions of the child seat are also activated by wireless connection. When the vehicle's sensors detect a PRE-SAFE-relevant driving situation, the child seat's five-point belt system is tensioned within milliseconds and a side impact protection element is extended. The great advantage of this system is that thanks to the tensioned belt, the child is more firmly and accurately fixed in the seat and belt slack is reduced. The loads acting on the child during an impact can be reduced substantially in this way. The side impact protection elements also follow this approach.

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Rodolfo Schöneburg, whose remit as a Head of Center at Mercedes-Benz includes vehicle safety, explains: "We have realised a virtual crumple zone in ESF 2019. This means that crucial measures to protect the passengers and other people involved in an accident can be implemented before an impending accident actually occurs. This also extends to safety in the rear seats, particularly with regard to improved protection for children."

Prof. Schöneburg is convinced that PRE-SAFE Child will serve to reduce the number of children injured in traffic accidents.

Added safety through monitoring of vital signs
Further highlights of the PRE-SAFE child seat are an integrated camera and special sensors to monitor the child's temperature, pulse and breathing and to establish whether the child is asleep. These additional features are useful above all when children under 15 months are correctly transported in a rearward-facing position on the rear seat.

During a journey, clearly understandable animations in the media display show the child's condition. The temperature, pulse, breathing, state of wakefulness and sitting time of the child are monitored.

During the journey, animations (e.g. 'Everything OK' or 'Child waking up') on the media display provide information about the state of the child, without distracting the driver from the traffic to any substantial degree. The display is intuitive to understand, and the system requires no additional mirrors in the interior. When the vehicle is stationary, at traffic lights, it is additionally possible to switch briefly to a live video image on the media display. If required, and with the help of the Mercedes me App, all the vital signs can also be transferred to a smartphone during a journey, e.g. to inform the other parent about the child's condition. This child seat with PRE-SAFE functions represents a vision which has been realised as a prototype. It has not yet been decided whether such a seat will go into series production. However, it is highly likely that many of the presented innovations will be implemented at some point in the future.

Also read: First new Mercedes-Benz Actros rolls off the production line

Mercedes-Benz previews its vision of safe mobility with ESF 2019