Mercedes-Benz shows Research Vehicle with Dynamic Chassis Technology, drive-by-wire steering and active suspension Mercedes Benz showed a radical new concept vehicle at the Tokyo Motor Show last October. It employs active wheel camber control, varying the camber angle on the outer wheels up to 20 degrees. Mercedes claims that when used in conjunction with newly-developed tyres, the system provides 30 percent more lateral stability than a conventional system with a fixed camber setting and standard tyres. So it's either safer, or goes round corners faster, or both.
The vehicle also employs a computer-controlled, active hydro-pneumatic system which constantly monitors the driving conditions, and optimises suspension and shock absorption in line with the changing situation on the road, all in real-time.
Perhaps the most significant development under evaluation in the car is the drive-by-wire system. Pilots have been flying for years in fly-by-wire aircraft - planes with computers which interpret the pilots flying inputs and behave appropriately. With the new concepts of computer-controlled camber and suspension, the time is obviously fast approaching when the benefits of computer assisted driving will be overwhelming. Though purists may be hard to convince, we suspect performance will be the final arbiter.
The F 400 Carving, as the test machine is known, is something of a mobile research laboratory for the Stuttgart-based automotive engineers. They will be using it to investigate the potential of this new chassis technology: besides offering excellent directional stability during cornering, the new technology ensures a much higher level of active safety in the event of an emergency. For example, if there is a risk of skidding, wheel camber is increased appropriately.
The resultant gain in lateral stability significantly enhances the effect of ESP, the Electronic Stability Program. In an emergency braking situation, all four wheels can be tilted instantly, thus shortening the stopping distance from 100 kmh by more than five metres.
The F 400 Carving is also the showcase for a totally new form of lighting technology. Fibre-optic lines are used to transmit light from xenon lamps beneath the bonnet to the main headlamps. This technology stands out by virtue of its high performance and space saving design. Additional headlamps positioned on the sides also come on when the car is cornering.