Stuttgart - Mercedes-Benz has a long and interesting tradition of Experimental Safety Vehicles, these concept cars dating back to the early 1970s. In fact these paved the way for some of the safety features that we take for granted today, such as ABS, airbags and seatbelt tensioners.

And now there’s a 2019 Experimental Safety Vehicle to carry on the tradition, the new GLE-based concept showcasing numerous innovations, some of which should debut fairly soon, while others look further into the future.

Set to debut at the ESV safety convention in The Netherlands next month, the ESF 2019 is a plug-in hybrid vehicle with autonomous driving capabilities.

Safer (and comfier) in the back

It also ushers in new safety ideas for back seat passengers, including a rear airbag with a special tubular structure. Of course, that would be of no use if the occupants weren’t wearing their seatbelts, so this car even goes as far as encouraging that with items like USB belt buckles and belt heating.

Upfront, the car’s safety package has adapted to its autonomous driving functionality with a steering wheel and pedal cluster that detract while the car is in driverless mode, in order to reduce the risk of injury. This has also necessitated new ideas for seat belts as well as airbags with different installation spaces.

Child safety is another big priority, and here Mercedes has developed a Pre-Safe child seat with preventative tensioning that fixes the child more firmly in the seat, and it also has side-mounted impact protection elements that extend before a crash has even occurred. 

Yet what parents are likely to appreciate the most, in everyday travelling, is that the seat actually monitors the child’s vital signs.

This car can deploy a robot!

Should you have an accident or breakdown, the ESF 2019 can automatically deploy a robot from the rear of the car, which positions itself at the road side to act as a ‘warning triangle’ to other motorists. Furthermore, an actual warning triangle folds out of the roof.

A seat belt that warns you about corners

Yes, that’s ultimately what the new Pre-Safe Curve does - the system uses the belt tensioner to warn the driver that he or she might have underestimated an approaching corner. Mercedes has not elaborated on how this works but we would surmise that navigation data is the primary enabler here.

Protecting cyclists like never before

Another big priority with this concept is protecting vulnerable road users like cyclists and pedestrians, and here the vehicle’s Active Brake Assist system has been extended to detect pedestrians and cyclists that are moving parallel to the vehicle - providing warnings when the driver is about to turn into the path of another road user and auto-braking if necessary.

The system can also prevent the driver from pulling off if it detects a possible crash with cross traffic.

Watch the ESF 2019 in action:

Some of these innovations close to reality

"Safety is part of the brand DNA of Mercedes-Benz. We have repeatedly demonstrated that we are not short of ideas in this field since the 1970s, with our Experimental Safety Vehicles,” says Ola Källenius.

“The new ESF 2019 reflects the mobility of the future, and presents a wide variety of innovations which we are currently researching and developing. And I can already say this much: some of the functions are very close to series production."

Exactly which of these features is close to production he would not say, but the aforementioned Pre-Safe items are likely to be close to fruition, while the folding steering wheel and the robot are not likely to feature in a Mercedes-Benz any time soon.

The Experimental Safety Vehicle (ESF) 2019 presents more than one dozen groundbreaking innovations in the field of safety.

IOL Motoring