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Image credits: © Mercedes-Benz.

1996 Mercedes-Benz F200 Imagination Concept

Technical highlights:

• Sidesticks instead of a steering wheel: drive-by-wire

• Forward-looking driving dynamics control

• Active Body Control (ABC)

1996 Mercedes-Benz F200 Imagination Concept
• Headlight system featuring variable light distribution

• Production launch as bi-xenon headlights with active light system in the Mercedes-Benz E-Class (W 211)

• Video cameras in place of a rearview mirror


• Electro-transparent panoramic glass roof: Production launch in 2002 in the Maybach 62

• Swiveling gullwing doors: Production launch in 2003 in the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren

• Voice recognition for mobile phone: Production launch in 1996 under the name LINGÚATRONIC in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class (W 140)

Does the car of the future still have a steering wheel and foot-operated controls? The Mercedes-Benz F 200 Imagination, presented at the 1996 Paris Motor Show, serves to test a new ergonomics concept and is the product of the joint efforts of engineers and designers. Sidesticks – little joysticks in the doors and the center console for steering and braking – replace the steering wheel. This is impossible without electronic assistance, and so the technology is called drive-by-wire.

1996 Mercedes-Benz F200 Imagination Concept
Where until now exclusively mechanical elements have existed which are directly activated by pulses of force emanating from the driver, these are now linked with electric and hydraulic actuators whose desired actions are determined by electronic pulses. If the driver pushes the sidestick forward, the F 200 Imagination accelerates. If he moves the lever to the right or left, the vehicle steers to the right or left. If he pulls the lever back, the vehicle brakes and, if desired, after stopping drives in reverse. To get a little relief the driver can switch the system to the front seat passenger and his sidesticks.

Drive-by-wire is a technical solution entailing consequences – for the interior, for example. If there is no more steering wheel and no more pedals, the passengers have more space and thus more comfort. It also serves safety since the cockpit and the footwell can be designed completely different.

The F 200 Imagination embodies the thoroughgoing networking of electronic systems. One result is its advanced driving dynamics control. The electronics recognize the driver's commands as requests for a certain driving state – accelerate, brake, steer, reverse – and decide in a flash how to comply with the commands in the best and safest manner. This is situational in nature because the computer utilizes the information of various sensors which tell it the road speed, wheel revolutions, engine revolutions, road condition and body motions. Based on this data, the computer decides, for example, how sharply the wheels should be angled during cornering or what engine speed is appropriate for driving on a wet road.

The system is interlinked with the Active Body Control (ABC). Even when the going gets risky, the electronics keep the car safely on course through lightning-fast intervention in steering, braking, engine or transmission management and chassis control. The driver can fully utilize the technical capabilities of his car without transgressing the physical limits – a genuine advantage for safety. The electronically controlled rear spoiler system of the F 200 Imagination also assists him at this, setting itself upright in a flash and acting as a drag for better deceleration when an emergency braking situation is detected.

The F 200 Imagination research car presents further innovative technology. For example, the headlights featuring variable light distribution: Six individual reflectors in each module, each with a separate bulb, are switched on and off depending on situation and speed in order to provide optimal light for driving at all times without blinding oncoming traffic. In curves, the light follows the wheel angle set by the driver, enhancing safety for night-time driving. At high speeds on superhighways an additional spot reflector is engaged to better illuminate the roadway far ahead. Innovations at the rear end too: the very compact taillight unit incorporates nine separate functions. The inconspicuous turn signal is a slender, arched neon tube distinguished by high luminous power and long life.

1996 Mercedes-Benz F200 Imagination Concept
Safety is always stressed by Mercedes-Benz, as demonstrated in the F 200 Imagination by the first-ever window airbag, which inflates itself across the side walls and considerably reduces the risk of head injuries in side crashes and rollovers. Since the coupe study does not have a conventional steering wheel, the front airbags are incorporated in a kneepad underneath the dashboard.

Instead of conventional rearview mirrors the experts employ a video system with five permanently installed minicameras. Four of them are discreetly concealed in the roof frame struts on each side of the car and, out on the road, constantly have an eye on the areas next to and behind the F 200 Imagination. The fifth camera is in the rear bumper and automatically switches on when the vehicle backs up. The images appear on various monitors in the vehicle interior where the conventional mirrors otherwise would be located.

In passing, so to speak, the F 200 Imagination also showed what a large, modern coupe might look like – heralding essential design features of the Mercedes-Benz CL which debuted in 1999. The F 200 Imagination has a transparent roof to flood the interior with light. Its special feature: the electro-transparent glass can be darkened at the push of a button to avoid excessive heating of the interior due to strong insulation. The glass has an intermediate layer, a liquid crystal film made of electrically conductive plastic. Electric current causes its crystals to array themselves so that the glass is transparent. In the meantime, this roof can be purchased in a car built by DaimlerChrysler: the Maybach 62.

In the sum of its characteristics, the F 200 Imagination is a pioneering research vehicle, particularly its electronics, which enable new concepts and will play a bigger role in future cars. Of course, they must be subjected to intensive testing before they go into production. The F 200 Imagination played an important part in this and was forerunner of a Mercedes-Benz SL of the R 129 series that was equipped with electronic steering and sidesticks for test purposes in 1998 and thoroughly road-tested.


Some of the findings: steering, braking and accelerating using a sidestick do require one to learn to think differently, but open up new dimensions in respect of driving dynamics, ride comfort and handling safety. The steering ratio and steering forces can be made variable and adapted to the particular situation – differently for parking than for negotiating a fast curve. To brake, the foot no longer has to be moved from the gas pedal to the brake pedal, so that the driver can respond more quickly.

Source - Mercedes-Benz

DESIGN AND ENGINEERING FOR THE FUTURE

1996 Mercedes-Benz F200 Imagination Concept
• Mercedes study incorporating the technical milestones of the future

• Steering, braking and accelerating by means of side-sticks

• Control system with automatic steering and brake intervention

• Suspension with active spring/damper adjustment on the move

• Video cameras take over the view to the rear

• New side airbags for front and rear occupants

Design for innovations - that was the motto in the development of the F 200 Imagination concept study presented by Mercedes-Benz at the 1996 Paris Motor Show. The two-door coupé is equipped with future-oriented systems which may become state-of-the-art on top-class models of the more distant future. Also, the study demonstrates new perspectives which are opened up by technical innovations in the design of future top-class cars. Form and function are therefore close-ly related in this show car - the coupé study reflects technological progress in both styling and engineering.
The F 200 Imagination is the result of a joint project of the Advanced Design Sector, the Mercedes-Benz Research Institute and the Pre-Development Sector of the Stuttgart-based motor manufacturer. The systems incorporated into this study car will improve the safety and comfort of passenger cars still further; Mercedes-Benz thus provides a glimpse of future technical milestones.

Side-sticks instead of steering wheel and pedals1996 Mercedes-Benz F200 Imagination Concept
Among the most important innovations on board the F 200 Imagination is a trailblazing control system which permits the driver to control all movements of the car by means of so-called side-sticks located in the interior door trim and centre console of the coupé study. To steer the car, the driver moves the side-sticks to the left or right, for braking, he moves them backwards - and forwards for accelerating. Conventional controls or connecting elements such as a steering wheel, steering column and pedals are not to be found in the F 200 Imagination - all of the driver's commands are transmitted electronically. The experts refer to 'drive-by-wire'.

In the F 200 Imagination coupé study, the Mercedes designers demonstrate the possibilities the omission of steering wheel and pedals offers in interior compartment design and the control of future cars.

Drive-by-wire: integrated system for greater safety

1996 Mercedes-Benz F200 Imagination Concept
The scientists at the Mercedes-Benz Research Institute have for several years been working on a new electronic control system. In tests, they have proved that the omission of mechanical and hydraulic connecting elements yields a number of advantages in terms of safety, comfort and costs. What's more, electronically controlled steering and braking systems allow a car control system to be realised that substantially improves the handling safety of future cars. The computer compares the driver's steering commands with programmed target values and ensures that the car stays on course even in critical situations.
The control system of the F 200 Imagination is coupled with an active suspension that differs from conventional suspension systems in that it features dynamically adjustable hydraulic cylinders at the wheels. Úsing these cylinders and several sensors, 'Active Body Control' (ABC) fully evens out bodywork roll while cornering and matches the springing and damping characteristics to the driving condition at any given point in time. This means greater handling safety and improved ride comfort.

Rear view: video cameras instead of exterior mirrors

1996 Mercedes-Benz F200 Imagination Concept
The Mercedes engineers have integrated electronic cameras replacing interior and exterior rear-view mirrors into the distinctive stainless steel panels on the glass roof of the F 200 Imagination. Screens in the cockpit of the coupé study inform the driver of what is going on behind the car. Other large-format screens in the dashboard provide indispensable information such as road speed and fuel level, as well as the displays of an on-board video recorder, a TV receiver, an on-board computer and a navigation system, providing information for the driver and entertainment for the passenger.

Swing-out-and-up doors: getting in and out more comfortably

1996 Mercedes-Benz F200 Imagination Concept
For the doors of the F 200 Imagination, the Mercedes engineers developed a swing-out and lift system that is activated at the push of a button. Hydraulic cylinders move the doors upwards at an angle of 30°. The advantages: the door opening is some 15 centimetres larger and thus makes getting in and out more comfortable, and the car requires clearly less space for parking. The doors are opened from outside by means of a magnetic card which the driver simply has to carry in his or her pocket. When he or she approaches the car, the on-board elec-tronic system of the F 200 Imagination automatically communicates with this magnetic card and, if the right code is transmitted, unlocks the doors.
Safety: new side airbags and headlamps for safe cornering

In the field of safety, the Mercedes engineers came up with a novel airbag system that will significantly increase occupant safety. In the event of a crash, the socalled window bag extends from the front to the rear roof frame like an inflatable curtain and protects both the front and rear-seat passengers. This lateral safety curtain complements the protective effect of the side airbags developed by Mercedes-Benz.

The combination of window bag and side airbag, called cosy bag (complete system of window bag and side airbag) will in future substantially enhance occupant protection in a side impact.

Headlamps with variable light distribution, which automatically adjust to the driving situation and road speed, improve vision at night. Special reflectors permit the headlamps to adjust depending on the front wheel turning angle and thus ensure optimum illumination of the road when cornering.

Source - DaimlerChrysler

Concepts by Mercedes-Benz



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