British auto journalist Jeremy Clarkson once said this truism of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class: If you’re wondering what the car of tomorrow is going to be like, look at the S-Class of today.
Mercedes-Benz has been a constant pioneer of technology, showcasing it in its full-size luxury sedan. Since then, it’s been ahead of the curve in trickling its technology down to other models. Perhaps Mercedes-Benz’s crowning achievement has been Pre-Safe, a suite of monitors and sensors that can actually predict the likeliness of an accident and adjust the car to prevent it.
That technology, or at least the basis of it, has just turned 10 years old and can be found in everything from the small A-Class hatchback sold outside of the U.S. to the S-Class. Mercedes-Benz Pre-Safe is represented on 60 percent of new cars it sells globally every year. Beyond that, things like active cruise control, lane keeping assist and other things that used to be exclusive to Mercedes-Benz and Pre-Safe are now found even in lower-end cars from virtually all manufacturers.
Pre-Safe can do everything from pre-load the seatbelt to compensate for your size and weight to reduce injuries by 30 percent to apply the brakes in an imminent collision. It also features active headrests, stability control, seat bolsters that will inflate in the event it senses an accident, and closing windows and the sunroof in the chance of a rollover.
It can work in conjunction with Mercedes-Benz’s Distronic active cruise control that will slow down automatically if it senses traffic in front of it moving too slowly. In fact, the car can even come to a complete stop if need be.
The first generation of Pre-Safe technology came in October 2002 in the S-Class. The brake assist followed in 2005 and was perfected in 2006. In the next generation, Mercedes-Benz says collision prevention technology for sensing pedestrians will be standard on the S-Class in addition to technology that will automatically turn on the hazard lights, and it can change tensioning forces depending on the accident.
Mercedes-Benz has made both active and passive safety features part of the technology that fuels its progress, with some cars doing everything but steer the car for you to keep you safe. As we saw at last January’s Consumer Electronics Show, however, even that may be coming soon.