New Mercedes-Benz E-Class: This saloon can drive itself at 130mph and PREVENT crashes

Mercedes has taken the wraps off the new E-Class at the Detroit Auto Show, and it’s one of the most advanced cars from the German marque yet. Featuring a huge dose of updated semi-autonomous technology, the new E-Class also comes with numerous innovative safety features – from tech that can protect your hearing in a crash, to a sensor-controlled braking system that can avoid any accident up to 43mph. When it hits dealerships this summer, the 2017 E-Class will be one of the most advanced cars on the road.

New Mercedes-Benz E-Class: This saloon can drive itself at 130mph and PREVENT crashes

The E-Class may look like a standard Mercedes on the outside, but Mercedes engineers have worked hard to make the inside of the car as intuitive as possible. As you’d expect in a modern car, the E-Class’ dashboard is dominated by a large 12.3in media screen – and the tech extends to the steering wheel too. Just like the Volkswagen BUDD-e showcased as CES earlier this month, the E-Class uses a “no-button” steering wheel, but that doesn’t mean it’s low tech. Instead of using complex clusters of buttons, Mercedes has fitted touch and swipe functionality to the E-Class’ steering wheel, meaning it should be easier to control.

Semi-autonomous crash prevention

While crash safety has been the car industry’s key issue for the past 100 years, we’ve now moved onto crash prevention. The E-Class uses the next generation of Drive Pilot, semi-autonomous technology that can follow traffic at speeds up to 130mph. When conditions are less ideal – for example, when there are no road markings – Drive Pilot uses surrounding vehicles and other environmental keys to control the car, but the top speed is capped to 81mph. The catch? For safety more than anything, Drive Pilot will require the driver’s hands to be on the wheel at least every 60 seconds.mercedes_benz_e_class_interior

Even when the driver has more control, Brake Assist monitors the cars in front and can slow the car to avoid an accident. Thanks to the sensor range and speed at which the brakes are deployed, Mercedes says its new Brake Assistant can prevent any collision under 43mph – and reduce the dangers of any crash over that speed. At the same time, the E-Class’ evasive steering assist also helps the driver apply the correct amount of steering input to avoid an accident, further limiting the chances of a crash. 

When things do go wrong, the E-Class also has another trick up its sleeve. Called Pre-Safe Sound, Mercedes’ new tech uses the car’s sound system to emit an ear-piercing noise a split second before an impact. Why? The noise triggers the human ear’s stapedius reflex, which essentially closes up the ear after loud noises to prevent permanent damage. By triggering this safety mechanism in advance, the E-Class tricks our ears into protecting themselves for the actual accident. The car’s Pre-Safe Impulse system does a similar job, and uses an air chamber to move passengers as far away from the affected area of the car as possible – just before impact.

The edge of autonomous

Although the E-Class is only regarded as the S-Class’ smaller brother, this year’s model looks to be the most innovative yet. By using a range of clever software and sensors, Mercedes is one of several manufacturers making the leap from crash protection to crash prevention, which can only be a good thing. Throw in features such as the E-Class’ ambitious but limited “Car to X Communication” platform and we’re really reaching the beginnings of our fully-connected, fully-autonomous future.

Read next: FFZERO1: Faraday Future unveils all-electric 1000hp Tesla-killer at CES

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