Fast lane

Cars with radars

This used to be the stuff of science fiction, but it’ll be available on the new S-Class early next year. The car will stop at a respectful distance behind the Mercedes E-Class. The only input of a driver to the whole process will be to keep hands on the steering wheel. The car in front drives off, one has to follow it with only a tap of the accelerator or finger, pull on the cruise control stalk, setting the car in motion. Then it’s up to the radar, and the immense computing power to take control of the brakes and throttle. One is driving the current S-Class, but this is no showroom model, as it’s loaded with some of the technological highlights that will feature on the new S-Class.

It’ll be officially launched in September, but this ‘mule’ has just demonstrated its effectiveness of Distronic Plus. And it’s just one of many innovations to feature on the new car. The systems that debut in the forthcoming S-Class might be seen as pointless to the masses, but the reality is that the speed of progress is such that it won’t take long for many to filter their way down to more mainstream machinery. If you don’t believe it you just need to look at some of the innovations that have been introduced by the S-Class throughout its various incarnations to see that this technology will have an effect in the future on every car. The S-Class can boast being the trailblazer with innovations like crumple zones, ABS, airbags and seatbelts - all of which are offered on even the cheapest of cars today. So what does the future hold? If the new S-Class is the barometer then it’s entirely plausible that your mainstream car will act exactly like the cars mentioned above. That means they’ll assist you with braking, parking and even allow you to see further than the headlamps in the dark — offering obvious benefits to safety. The Distronic Plus system that’s just stopped is a development of the radar assisted speed sensitive cruise control systems that are already available on many luxury cars. But here it takes things a step further. It’ll now follow the car in front, using long and short-range radar from 0 to 124mph.

Distronic Plus

What’s significant there is the 0mph. Distronic Plus allows you to drive in stop-start traffic on the motorway without needing to constantly jump from accelerator to brake. It’ll work in town too, but really it’s best for queuing traffic on motorways. It would, for example, be absolutely fantastic on the M25 at rush hour. So would Brake Assist Plus. In the sort of emergency braking situations that are all too familiar to those driving in busy traffic Brake Assist Plus, like ESP (electronic stability control), one of those systems that works with you to maximise braking. When it detects an object in front and feels you braking it ensures that enough pressure is being used to avoid, or minimise the speed of, an impact.