In future America, car stops you.

To wrap up our visit to its R&D lab in Palo Alto, Mercedes-Benz's Gordon Peredo demonstrated "Smart Stop," a wireless safety system that stops cars automatically when the driver fails to heed a red light.The technology isn't headed to production vehicles in the immediate future. Having it work in the real world depends on the existence of smart intersections -- which means cooperation from Congress, regional/local governments and the rest of the industry. Moreover, upgrading America's intersections won't come cheap.

Disclosure: Mercedes-Benz is a sponsor of BBG. Last week, we drove the new E-Class and were the first bloggers or journalists to get a look inside their North American R&D lab. Mercedes-Benz has no editorial involvement in the items we post about the visit .

Apart from a few trial installations, it could be ten years or more before the technology is standardized and available nationwide. When implemented, it won't just be about safety: cars that include the wireless transceivers can conduct a "conversation" with one other to share realtime local traffic data, as well as to warn the driver if he or she is accelerating into a stop light.

Current-gen driver-assisting systems include lane assist, to warn of dangerous drifting; a proximity detector that keeps an eye on blind spots; and steering-wheel sensors able to detect hand movement characteristic of sleepy drivers.

Those who prefer to go without can turn off "assistance," and Mercedes-Benz says this'll remain true in future generations of it cars. "Safety" features like the Smart Stop systems -- which already brake automatically to prevent imminent rear-end collisions -- are always on.

MP4: Download.

More info is at Mercedes-Benz's website.

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  1. I’ve already stated my feelings on this type of stuff, but what happens when I am in a situation where I NEED to run a red light?

    And then what happens when people hack the wireless signals, like the Polish teenager that derailed a tram by changing switch points wirelessly?

    Do. Not. Want.

  2. I don’t get the incentive for M-B to be developing this system. Maybe it would be different if I could pay to put this “feature” on *other* people’s cars, but why would I pay to have it on mine?

    If they were planning to sell or license the devices which are fitted on the traffic lights to the government it might make sense, but is Mercedes Benz really planning to go into licensing or selling municipal infrastructure as a business practice?

    Seems more like a case of modernism to me. Some engineer realizes he can build a thing, so he does, without considering if he actually should. Once governments catch wind of the tech it will probably become a requirement that we *all* pay so that *all* cars will have to have them.

    Thanks a lot, Mercedes Benz.

  3. This seems so absurdly hackable that it makes me cringe. I wonder what happens when someone decides to paint a set of yellow lines that leads into a brick wall, will the computer be able to tell the difference?

    Humans may not be ideal systems for driving vehicles, but at least generally there’s a strong impetus for a human to not fuck up while driving, the basic fact that an accident has a good potential to kill/maim you.

    But then again, I tend to like driving with the most control over the car as possible, I drive a very basic manual car, but I’m always trying to master new ways to optimize my control of my car; whether it be double clutching or rolling around in neutral to conserve fuel. I like the feeling of having absolute control over what my car does. The idea of my car manufacturer deciding what the best way I should drive is terrible to me.

  4. Gentlemen — the car’s auto-stop feature can be easily disabled, I forget what the command is, but I think it’s as simple as flicking a switch or tapping your feet somewhere.

  5. That doesn’t really jive with this part of the article:

    “‘Safety’ features like the Smart Stop systems — which already brake automatically to prevent imminent rear-end collisions — are always on.”

  6. this really does seem like a recipe for more accidents rather than less, i hope it doesn’t catch on.

  7. @Xeni, If it can be disable easily, that’s great. However, it doesn’t address the fact that there will be a portion of people who use these features not as a safety catch, but to abdicate themselves of a certain degree of awareness and responsibility in driving.

    I worry about the repercussions a class of drivers who won’t think about shifting lanes cautiously on the grounds that the car will only let them do it if its safe.

  8. Folks, its not a bad as it seems. There is a disable for the gas pedal. Its called the brake.

    ‘Snarky Comment Ahead’

    Does Mercedes make a car that will potentially enable you to post more than three days a week? Not being a (complete and total) ass, but things have been pretty slim here lately, just wondering what is up. Things seemed to really fall off the scale after JJ left. Other gadget sites are burying yall with their volume. Given this time of year, and the abundance of new tech flowing out, it just seems odd BBG seems like a ghost town. I know you mentioned weeks ago that you had something in the works; so I assume for now that Rachel the RealDoll has arrived. Otherwise, is BBG headed to that great box of ones and zeros in the sky? I used to admire greatly the abundantly absurd prose that was applied to even the most mundane gadget post. I miss BBG.

  9. i certainly miss joel. brownlee too, for that matter, though it’s been a while on that note. looking forward to things picking up a bit!

    more on-topic: this seems sort of like the lexus that parallel-parks itself. i don’t want it or need it, but my boss’s wife is gonna go nuts about it. anything that makes driving less like a responsibility and more like being chaufeurred.

  10. DO NOT WANT.

    I like buying older used cars these days because I don’t need such a complex system of things being done for me. I don’t want to be along for the ride when I drive, I want to be in full control.

    I find driving fun – and these things may be great for the average air-head driver, but they’re not for me – it sucks all the fun right out of it.

  11. i’m a fan.
    are you guys against having a car that can drive itself, ultimately?
    as long as you can disable it and go manual, i’m all for it.

  12. @17 But it’s not really stopping itself. Because it relies on an external signal from the stop light to work it’s possible for the mechanism to be engaged by a stray or engineered signal. In my opinion this makes the safety feature more of a hazard than a help. I would love for cars to drive themselves but that would require vehicles to regulate themselves without relying on external signals.

  13. It’s a slippery slope to a big brother type of car world. Woody Allen’s sleeper springs to mind or i-robot.

    It would be very unpopular and any political party doing it would be ‘madder than a march hare’.

    as dizzy says ‘bonkers!’

  14. Apparently it comes with a soothing voice.

    “Please remain calm while the hood-wearing thugs car-jack you. Offering resistance can result in physical injury or loss of life. Thank you for driving Mercedes-Benz.”

  15. The cop directing traffic during a public event will love it when you have to spend several minutes figuring out how to get your car to let you obey his hand signals. (And yes, they could disable the “stop now” signal from the traffic light, but given that right now they don’t disable the solid red “stop now” signal, they probably won’t in the indeterminate future either.)

    Honestly, I’m just being a bitch. Stuff like this is neat to read about and I’m glad to research is happening. I don’t believe for a minute that it will be deployed widely in my lifetime.

    The really dangerous part will be having a mix of smart and dumb vehicles. It’s bad enough now when people go from a car with automatic headlights to one that doesn’t even have a reminder chime and kill their battery by leaving the lights on; imagine the same thing but with “smart stop” and lane departure warning and laser guided cruise control and so forth. It’ll probably still be a net positive, but there would certainly be some accidents from complacency in the wrong vehicle.

  16. Ferry (#6) claims the human factor is necessary to avoid computer-generated muckups, but google ‘gps error +accident’ and you’ll find plenty of trucks and cars that ended up in the wrong place (low bridges, water) because the driver took the GPS’s assurance over, oh, the reality outside their windshield.

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