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New Pre-Safe System Anticipates Collisions

The 2003 Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan is the world's first production car equipped with an astonishing new system that can sense a possible collision a few seconds in advance and take pre-crash protective measures. Called Pre-Safe, this high-tech system inaugurates an entirely new era in vehicle safety.

Mercedes engineers concluded that cars can be equipped to sense an imminent crash up to five full seconds before the actual impact. As a result, they've designed the innovative Pre-Safe system to first tension the seatbelts if the system senses an impending collision. The system uses new resettable electric tensioners in addition to the existing pyrotechnic belt tensioners that still deploy on impact. What's more, if the front passenger seat and any of the electrically adjustable rear seats are reclined, Pre-Safe moves them to a more vertical position, and, if the vehicle skids (sometimes a precursor to rollover), the system automatically closes the sunroof. If a crash is averted, the electric belt tensioners automatically relax and are ready to deploy again if necessary.

Pre-Safe reacts to uncorrected fishtailing (or oversteer) as well as "plowing" (or understeer) by using existing sensors for ESP stability control that measure steering angle, vehicle yaw and lateral acceleration. Emergency braking can also trigger Pre-Safe, which monitors sensors for the Brake Assist system as well.

Mercedes-Benz accident researchers found that about two-thirds of all accidents are preceded by skidding, emergency braking or a sudden evasive maneuver - all of which can provide several valuable seconds of advance warning before impact. In the past, the auto industry didn't make use of this relatively wide and potentially lifesaving "window," since conventional airbags and seat belt tensioners are only triggered when the impact actually occurs.

However, Pre-Safe makes use of technology that reads these danger signals in advance and uses the remaining seconds to react and take some precautionary measures. In a sense, Pre-Safe equips the car with reflexes, almost as if it's alive. Just as the perception of sudden danger triggers a human reflex action, so the innovative safety technology of the S-Class triggers special systems to reduce the risk of occupant injury.

In the future, Pre-Safe could include additional sub-systems such as extending bumpers, smart crumple zones or moveable interior door panels designed to help keep occupants further away from dangerous deformation zones. Radar, infrared or ultrasound technology could be used to monitor the vehicle's surroundings and measure the speed, angle and mass of an approaching object. If it's a truck or van, vehicle height might even be raised to improve crash compatibility.

For more information on Mercedes-Benz and Pre-Safe, visit this website:
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