Coaches continue to become safer. In a demonstration of Daimler Buses’ capabilities in that area, it has built a UK-specification Mercedes-Benz Tourismo Safety Coach that includes Active Brake Assist 4
Daimler Buses has made a statement by building the first right-hand drive Safety Coach, which showcases all of its functionality and software that can protect drivers, passengers and third parties.
Painted bright yellow, the UK-specification Tourismo M/3 tri-axle arrived from the Istanbul factory last Thursday (4 October).
It will form part of a heavily Tourismo-oriented display by EvoBus (UK) at Euro Bus Expo (EBE), although the dealership recognises that the coach’s extensive capabilities can only be fully appreciated by driving it.
“The purpose of this vehicle is to demonstrate the safety technology that we can offer,” says Director Mercedes-Benz Sales Marcus Watts.
“There has never been a right-hand drive Safety Coach before, but we believe that the time is right to promote what can be achieved in the Tourismo. There is no huge cost to any of the functionality that it showcases.”
The coach was specified as a 13m tri-axle because a short wheelbase and rear steering give a small turning circle. The M/3 thus best suits the demonstration of stability benefits that will soon come to all two- and three-axle Tourismos.
Centrepiece of the Safety Coach is Active Brake Assist 4 (ABA4). In terms of hardware, ABA4 exhibits no difference to ABA3 barring some sensors. Instead, improvements have been achieved via software upgrades. “ABA4 is a whole-vehicle braking product and not just for emergencies,” says Mr Watts. It assists stability in a wide variety of scenarios, but it has one headline function.
ABA3 included detection of larger frontal obstructions. With ABA4, that now extends to pedestrians, which will be useful in urban environments where humans may step from between parked vehicles. Action taken by the coach begins with it informing the driver and, if required, culminates with an automatic braking application.
To prevent collisions, ABA4 uses two radar detectors. A long-range unit picks up obstructions and multi-track vehicles at distances of up to to 250m, and pedestrians from 80m. The short-range radar works up at to 70m. It also detects pedestrians and vehicles to the sides ahead.
To foster take-up of ABA4, all Tourismos built with the Powershift 3 automated manual gearbox from 1 January 2019 will have it as standard. EvoBus (UK) has already sold a number of them. Work between Daimler and ZF is underway to extend ABA4 to coaches with the EcoLife gearbox. There is currently no date for that to be completed, but it will be at some point.
Mr Watts reports that the Powershift 3 is growing in popularity. routeone was very briefly able to drive the Safety Coach last week, and one of the transmission’s positives is the ‘creep’ function that it displays when the brake is released and before the accelerator is pressed.
Naturally, the demonstrator includes various other functions. Among them is Attention Assist, which monitors the driver’s behaviour and alerts him or her should they become tired.
A traffic light-style reversing indicator within the rear-view mirrors, with bulbs that flash red, yellow or green depending on the distance to an obstruction, is also fitted. Optional Side Guard Assist will be added to the Tourismo range later.
Much of the technology in the Safety Coach comes from the S-Class car, but the Tourismo also includes collision protection should an accident be unavoidable.
That involves twin crumple zones at the lower front that absorb kinetic energy. Additionally, the Tourismo is designed to protect the driver by moving them, along with the pedal box and the seat, upwards and backwards away from the impact.
Mr Watts says he is unaware of any other manufacturer that offers frontal collision protection to the extent that Daimler does in the Tourismo. “I believe that this is the safest coach in the market,” he adds.
And there is every chance that ABA4 will soon become a common part of the coaching scene here. In an unprecedented development, the UK is currently the worldwide lead market for the new Tourismo, and EvoBus (UK) expects that good performance to continue into 2019.
The Safety Coach will be prominent at EBE. So too will other examples of the Tourismo range as EvoBus (UK) continues to promote both the coach and everything that it offers to go with it. You can see them all at the NEC Birmingham from 30 October-1 November.
Safety has become a major consideration for vehicle OEMs over the past decade. Much of that focus has been driven by legislation; an age of a growing sense of corporate responsibility has also contributed.
The Tourismo Safety Coach demonstrates what can be achieved in terms of driver, passenger and third party protection. Daimler Buses is to be commended for making its flagship ABA4 product standard fit from 2019. There is no doubt much else in the pipeline for ABA5.
Many other technology-related products are available that extend well into the fleet management sphere. Daimler does not have a monopoly on these, illustrating that coaches are becoming cleverer as well as safer.
The elephant in the room remains automation. ABA4 undoubtedly forms part of the roadmap towards it – but will true self-driving coach ever become reality?