- The 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class and 2014 E-Class will get a new traffic sign assistance system that warns drivers if they are going the wrong way.
- The system will gradually be introduced into other models.
- The system will be designed primarily for use in Germany, but Mercedes-Benz is working on adapting the system for use in other countries.
STUTTGART, Germany — The 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class and 2014 E-Class will get a new traffic sign assistance system that warns drivers if they are going the wrong way, parent Daimler announced on Monday.
The system will gradually be introduced into other models. Daimler did not say how much the technology would add to the price of a car.
The system will be designed primarily for use in Germany, but Mercedes-Benz is working on adapting the system for use in other countries.
The new system "can prevent drivers from driving unintentionally in the opposite direction to the flow of traffic," the automaker said in a statement.
It recognizes "no-entry" signs and issues an acoustic and visual warning to the driver. The system includes a camera mounted on the inside of the windshield that can identify no-entry signs and send the information to the onboard electronics. If it detects that a vehicle is about to pass warning signs, the system issues three loud beeps and a red no-entry symbol lights up.
If poor visibility limits the system's optics — such as during heavy snow — the system reports to the driver that it is temporarily unavailable.
Wrong-way drivers are known as "phantom drivers" in Germany. Daimler said they are responsible for a "shocking number of fatal accidents."
In December, the National Transportation Safety Board in the U.S. issued a report on wrong-way collisions, noting "although they are relatively rare highway occurrences, wrong-way collisions tend to be severe events resulting in fatalities." The number of fatalities averages over 300 per year here, the NTSB said.
Wrong-way collisions in the U.S. occur most often at night and during the weekends; they also tend to take place in the lane closest to the median.
"Driving while impaired by alcohol is the primary cause of wrong-way driving collisions; more than 60 percent of wrong-way collisions are caused by drivers impaired by alcohol," the NTSB report noted.
Instead of calling for warning technology such as the one described by Daimler, the NTSB is encouraging the installation of alcohol ignition interlocks on vehicles.
Edmunds says: Daimler says this new technology is another step toward "the vision of accident-free driving." But it still raises concerns ranging from increased costs to exactly what type of technology provides the best solution.