Industry spotlight: safety features

Driving a prototype Sprinter at the Bosch testing grounds at Boxberg revealed that a 25mph (40km/h) gust of wind was enough to blow the Sprinter into the neighbouring lane.

Turning the system on made a marked difference to the van’s behaviour under identical circumstances; the system applied the brakes briefly (but noticeably) reducing the wind-induced jink significantly. My heart-rate still rose a little but I was kept safely in my own lane.

Crosswind Assist will be a standard-fit item across the next-generation Sprinter range on sale later this year.

Lane Keeping Assist

Lane Keeping Assist has been fitted to passenger cars for some time and is simple to understand: if the system suspects that the vehicle is drifting from one lane to another due to driver distraction or inattention it raises the alarm, allowing the driver to correct their mistake.

The system – passive as it doesn’t actively intervene at any point – alerts the driver with flashing warning light and an audible alarm if the screen-mounted camera detects a lane change that isn’t accompanied by the use of the indicators.

So far so simple, but if a safety system becomes annoying rather than useful it will be ignored, so Lane Keeping Assist is inoperable at speeds below 37mph (60km/h).

Manoeuvres in a city (where the use of multiple white and yellow lines is prevalent) do not attract false alarms.

The system will not be triggered if the driver brakes or varies his speed while cutting across the central road markings as he might on a narrow, twisting country road.

We tested it and it works.

Blind spot monitoring

Blind spot monitoring systems are another staple of the modern car but they are, again, one that needs modification to become fit-for-purpose for a vehicle as long as the Sprinter.

The Mercedes-Benz solution to the increased blind spot that a large van has is to mount cameras on the rear corners of the vehicle as well as on the exterior rear-view mirrors, giving a much wider angle of monitoring.

If an object is detected either side of the van in the blind spot, a red triangle illuminates on the relevant mirror, warning the driver of the presence of a vehicle.

If the driver then uses the direction indicators the red triangle starts to flash and an alarm briefly sounds. It works very effectively, adding another layer of unobtrusive protection that even attentive drivers will appreciate.

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