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Versatile, reliable and, above all, safe — that’s the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. The Sprinter’s safety is guaranteed by a whole range of optional and standard safety and assistance systems, some of which were previously only available in car model series.
During my internship at the Corporate Communications unit of Mercedes-Benz Vans, I was given the opportunity to participate in a Sprinter Safety Workshop for journalists at the Daimler test track in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim.
Parking and maneuvering with the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
During the journalists’ drive to the event venue, they could already experience the first assistance system in action — in a Sprinter, of course. Large turbines stationed along the test track generated a powerful cross-wind against the vehicles — but that was no problem, thanks to Crosswind Assist, which is standard equipment. This system can make van journeys safer even at higher speeds, for example during highway driving.
When you’re driving a van that is over six meters long, one of the challenges — or even the main challenge — is to always have an overview of the vehicle and its surroundings from every angle. When you’re parking the van, you’re assisted by the 360-degree camera and the Parking Package plus side protection. To enable the workshop participants to test both of these systems, a driving parkour had been set up with traffic cones. The journalists were asked to drive through the parkour backward with their mirrors covered.
That sounds challenging, but thanks to the reversing camera, it was even manageable for newcomers to the Sprinter like myself. I was invited to try as well. I took a little longer than some of the other participants, but the system really works: All the traffic cones were still standing when I finished.
Distance- and Lane Keeping Assist
The assistance systems also make driving easier and safer. When you’re driving in dense traffic, Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC is especially useful. After the driver has set his or her desired speed of 20 km/h or higher, the system automatically maintains the set minimum distance to the vehicle ahead.
If the driver of the vehicle ahead brakes, thus decreasing the distance between the vehicles, the system reacts immediately and brakes the Sprinter — to a full stop if necessary. If the vehicle ahead stands still for less than three seconds, the van automatically starts up again. If the standstill is longer than three seconds, tapping on the gas pedal or reactivating DISTRONIC via the steering wheel buttons gets the vehicle moving again. If the sensors in the front bumper detect a hazard, Active Brake Assist intervenes and prevents a possible collision.
The Active Lane Keeping Assist is especially helpful during long drives. If the driver should drift out of a lane because of inattention or fatigue, this assistance system warns the driver by sending visual signals and vibrating the steering wheel. If the driver does not react and crosses a solid-line road marking, the system brakes the wheels on one side of the vehicle in order to bring it back into the proper lane.
Accident research at Mercedes-Benz Vans
When it comes to safety, accident research is also an important topic. The specialists at Mercedes-Benz Vans have been investigating real traffic accidents involving series-produced vans since 2015. They use their findings to develop potential improvements in vehicle development in order to make the segment even safer.
One of their findings is that optimizing the driver’s vision reduces the risk of accidents. One of these optimization measures in the Sprinter is the new Wet Wiper System, which the journalists were able to test on a steep incline, along with the all-wheel drive and the hill-holder. This system also gives the driver a clear view when the windshield wipers are in operation, as the washer fluid is fed through the wiper arms and directly wiped away.
At the Sprinter Safety Workshop I was very impressed by the broad range of the Sprinter’s driving and assistance systems — and how the workshop made this seemingly dry topic very engrossing. Because the journalists were able to test and try things out for themselves, they were able to see the possibilities a modern van offers with respect to safety.