Industry spotlight: safety features

It can be turned off, but doing so triggers an amber triangle in either mirror; as with all of the safety systems tested, turning them off is possible, but not encouraged.

Highbeam Assist

Highbeam Assist uses a forward-facing camera to detect light sources in front of the vehicle, helping it decide whether high or low beam is appropriate before switching between them automatically.

A few conditions needs to be met for the system to kick in: the vehicle’s speed must be over 22mph (35km/h) and there must be no street lighting, preventing the system activating high beam in built-up areas.

We didn’t get the chance to test this system, but as the technology is widespread and largely effective in passenger vehicles, it is likely to be equally useful in the new Sprinter.

Collision Prevention Assist

The most dramatic, and yet partially disappointing, demonstration was that of Collision Prevention Assist.

The premise is straightforward: the Sprinter uses radar to automatically detect vehicles in front of it before warning the driver if they are getting too close.

This is a two-stage process.

If the gap isn’t getting smaller and the driver is just too close a warning light is illuminated, but if the closing speed is fast and a collision would occur within the next two seconds without action, an audible warning is also triggered.

This warning can cut driver reaction times by up to 0.2 seconds, which might not sound a lot but equates to six metres at 62mph (100km/h).

When the driver does start to brake, the Sprinter monitors the effort applied, and if it is too little (and research suggests it will be in 80% of cases) Brake Assist Pro boosts braking power automatically.

During demonstrations the Sprinter repeatedly pulled up much more quickly than seemed possible and did so in a straight line, with Brake Assist Pro applying the maximum retardation to prevent a collision.

It was a very impressive demonstration – once the driver started to brake.

Therein lies the drawback for me. The Sprinter is capable of detecting an imminent collision and can help the driver avoid it by boosting brake pressure but only after the driver initiates braking.

I can’t help thinking that it would be far better to have the vehicle brake automatically if the driver is too slow to react.

Mercedes-Benz’s reasoning is that a van driver has many options available, including taking evasive action instead of braking.

I still think that it seems like a missed opportunity and I wouldn’t be surprised if Mercedes-Benz upgraded the system to fully automatic braking at some point in the future.

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