Appointment with the future
- Major space savings with innovative pedals
- Programmable multivision display and infrared nightview system
- High-performance combination of V8 diesel engine and electric motor
At the Tokyo Motor Show 2003, Mercedes-Benz presented the latest in a string of research vehicles which have attracted much interest and attention over the years and which provide fascinating insights into the automotive technology of tomorrow and beyond. Packaged as a stylish fastback saloon, this pioneering vehicle showcases more than a dozen technical ideas for enhancing the safety, drive technology and comfort of future Mercedes passenger cars.
Researchers will be using the four-door saloon to conduct the first practical tests of various innovative systems and to pave the way for their introduction into series production. The F 500 Mind is therefore designed as a mobile research laboratory, and is fitted with a lavishly equipped laboratory bench on the passenger side of the vehicle. The bench folds out towards the rear and can be operated from the right-hand single seat at the back of the car.
The bench incorporates computers for monitoring the F 500 Mind’s onboard systems, controlling a vast array of functions and carrying out online measurements during tests on the proving ground. Measuring 5092 by 1889 millimetres, the research vehicle is 49 millimetres longer and 34 millimetres wider than the current S-Class. The biggest difference however is in terms of height. At 1534 millimetres, the F 500 is 90 millimetres taller than the range-topping Mercedes model.Inside the F 500 Mind, the completely new spatial environment and lavish roominess come as something of a surprise. This is due to the replacement of conventional mechanical accelerator and brake pedals by pressure-sensitive electronic controls. Each of these electronic pedals incorporates eight sensors which measure the accelerator or brake pedal effort and relay it as an electronic signal to the control units in the engine or the SBC™ brake system.This innovative technology allows finely controlled acceleration and braking with short response times. It also takes up very little space, extending the length of the front footwell by 120 millimetres, the distance which would normally be required for pedal travel. This 120 millimetres is put to good use in a redesign of the passenger compartment. The driver’s and front passenger’s seats have been moved 120 millimetres further forwards, thereby opening up a new dimension in spaciousness. The hip-to-hip distance between the front and rear passengers is 980 millimetres — an outstanding figure even for the luxury class.
Further advantages of the innovative, non-wearing pedal technology are a reduced injury risk in a frontal collision and reduced noise due to a closed front bulkhead. Also, the cruise control and SBC™ functions like Soft Stop, Tailback Assist or Anti-stall Assist can be operated even more easily – with a “click” of the electronic foot pedal.
With the conventional method, the large doors can be opened forwards to a maximum angle of 90 degrees, independently of each other. If even more convenient access to the rear is desired, the shortened B-pillar, which is normally connected to the door sill, can be disengaged, allowing rear-hinged opening of the rear door together with the B-pillar to an angle of up to 90 degrees. This provides a large opening which measures 1900 mm across and is not obstructed by a B-pillar. The B-pillar is connected to the body by means of an electromechanical locking system which can be disengaged electrically simply by pressing a button.
Body structure: central pillar inside the vehicle
The unique two-way door technology and the absence of full-size B-pillars presented the researchers with something of a challenge when it came to ensuring the structural rigidity of the body. They had to find some other way of incorporating the important structural stiffening and crash safety which would normally be provided by the B-pillars. Larger-diameter roof pillars and roof frame members were not an option, since they would have impeded all-round vision and easy entry.Eventually, finite element computer analyses gave the Stuttgart engineers the idea of using a central interior pillar. The central pillar provides a sturdy connection between the transmission tunnel and the y-shaped roof structure. Together with a cross member in the floor and strong sill members which come into play in the event of a side impact, the central pillar provides high flexural and torsional rigidity. The new structural element was designed in accordance with an in-house study which showed that a slightly curved shape was the best way of ensuring good rearward and sideways visibility for the driver.The interior pillar also offers some new ideas for the air conditioning system: the F 500 developers integrated air conditioning ducts into the pillar trim and routed them upwards to the centre roof member. Here they have fitted individually adjustable ventilation outlets for the rear passengers. Also located in the interior pillar are special lighting panels, which together with the indirect lighting on the transmission tunnel provide discreet but effective interior illumination.
Control and display concept: multivision technology for the cockpit
The cockpit of the F 500 Mind contains numerous innovations which assist the driver in operating the vehicle and which supply important information in clearly arranged form.The centrepiece of the instrumentation and control system is the newly developed multivision display incorporating the speedometer, rev counter, navigation display and various other instruments. The innovative technology allows the driver to individually programme the display so that he has a view of all the information he requires. He can change between displays simply by pressing a button on the steering wheel.
The multivision instrument panel combines high-resolution TFT (Thin Film Transistor) displays with analogue dials. The displays form a large and logically organised array which can display as much information as the driver requires. Using a semitransparent mirror which extends right across the instrument cluster, the circular dials and the displays can be optically superposed or shown separately. Depending on how the system is programmed, the displays can also incorporate the dial lettering. Basically, the multivision principle means that a single display can present various different sets of information, dispensing with the need for additional displays or dials.
The movement of the lighted needles in the dials can also be programmed. As well as speed, rpm and energy consumption, other information can be shown here too. If the driver switches off the dial and needle lighting, the relevant display area can be used to show menus or images from the infrared nightview system.
The needles and dials are positioned in such a way that they appear to float in front of the display. This creates an interesting three-dimensional effect.