The Mercedes E-Class: It's big and clever
Deep in the backwaters of Stuttgart sits an incredibly hot and sweaty facility that, for one-day only, hosted the upcoming Mercedes-Benz E-Class, a handful of engineers and a sort of art exhibition to illustrate some of the exciting tech that is due to feature.
Merc boffins claim the forthcoming model, which will look a little bit like an S-Class that's been through a hot wash, will be one of the safest and most intelligent cars available to man.
It can park itself
Upcoming E-Class takes the strain out of parking
Seriously, the upcoming E-Class will happily take itself off and find a parking space, saving you embarrassing moments in the multi-storey car park.
The optional technology is called Remote Parking Pilot and it harnesses the power of numerous ultrasonic sensors and a 360-degree camera to first scope out a suitable space and then guide the saloon safely in.
Drivers simply drive past the parking space in question, press a button on the dash, pop the car in 'Park' gear and hop out. A bespoke smartphone app is then fired up, which connects to the car via Bluetooth, and the driver is then required to constantly swipe the smartphone screen to manoeuvre the car.
Both parallel and perpendicular parking is possible, while customers can also slot the car in and out of tight garages from outside the vehicle using the same functionality.
Unfortunately, you can't simply locate a space and then walk off to do your shopping. For legal reasons, drivers must remain a few feet away from the vehicle (the key in your pocket acts as a locator beacon) and they must constantly interact with the app to keep the car moving.
However, the system is said to be highly accurate and brilliant at navigating the tightest parking spots. Although, we can't guarantee you won't look utterly ridiculous doing it.
It can be opened with a smartphone
Unlock the E-Class with NFC
Numerous manufacturers now offer a system where an app can remotely lock and unlock the doors but Mercedes is taking things one step further, by allowing E-Class owners to gain access to the car simply by waving a phone near the door handles.
It works using the handset's built-in NFC, which then communicates with technology within the doors. When held in close proximity, the car is unlocked and it can then be started via a button near the steering wheel.
Engineers claim this system is far safer than rival tech that sends a signal over the airwaves to the car's on-board computer, as key information is stored on a secure SIM and is almost impossible to intercept or copy.
Regardless, customers will require an NFC-compatible phone for it to work and, according to a Mercedes spokesperson, Apple is already putting up a number of roadblocks.
It's super safe
Seatbelt airbags feature inside
The number of safety systems on the upcoming E-Class is borderline ridiculous and far too complex to go into here. But we will say the Intelligent Drive package now harnesses 23 different sensors and cameras to ensure the vehicle is safer than ever.
A new Pre-Safe Impulse Side function can detect an impending side impact and the seats will physically move the front occupants out of the way of danger. It works using a high-pressure airbag in the side of the seats that basically punches the occupant in the ribs, away from the crumpling doors.
The system will even play a special noise in the event of an accident that is said to prepare the ear for the sounds of a crash, thus reducing the chance of hearing damage.
Mercedes also says that the car will brace itself for a crash by ensuring all the windows and sunroof are closed, the front passenger seatback is set to the correct height, while the seatbelts are pre-tensioned and ready for impact.
There are even little airbags on the seatbelts themselves to protect occupants from nasty chest injuries.
It uses Car-to-X communication
Cloud connection warns of dangers ahead
The technology may still be in its infancy but Car-to-X communication is vital if we are to realise our fully autonomous automotive dreams.
It works by installing a SIM card into the vehicle that then communicates with The Cloud to decipher all manner of traffic messages. For example, the upcoming E-Class can receive advanced warnings of incidents occurring along the route, such as accidents, traffic build-up and dangerous driving conditions.
But rather than relying on traditional TMC traffic information, the big saloon harvests data from other Mercedes vehicles that have already arrived at or passed through the incident.
Of course, the system works best when all vehicles feature this technology but it won't be long before everything on the road is communicating with one another and smart road furniture that is currently being installed on many of our road networks.
Hands on the wheel at all times, please
If it wasn't for the pesky law, the upcoming E-Class could tackle motorway schleps with zero input from the driver.
Alas, customers will have to make sure they keep their hands on the wheel but the vehicle will keep in lanes, even when road markings aren't available, by constantly tracking road furniture and following the vehicle ahead.
It will automatically brake in the event of sudden traffic build-up and move off on its own steam when the roads start flowing again.
There's also an Active Braking Assist function, which warns if a collision is imminent and provides an extra brake boost. It can even apply additional steering input to avoid a crash.
The E-Class will go on sale in the summer of 2016. Pricing is yet to be confirmed.