Car Culture

Mercedes-Benz serves up virtual coffee

The new Mercedes-Benz E-class includes the Attention Assist feature, which detects if the driver is falling asleep.

Attention Assist display
The Mercedes-Benz E-class suggests coffee if it thinks you are falling asleep. Mercedes-Benz

The new E-class features quite a few cutting-edge driver aid gadgets, such as night vision, blind-spot detection, and adaptive cruise control. We saw these features previously in the Mercedes-Benz S550, but the E-class will also include Attention Assist, a new feature for Mercedes-Benz that keeps you from falling asleep at the wheel.

Attention Assist monitors the car's driver, using 70 parameters to determine if he or she is dozing off. If it detects a drowsy driver, the system sounds a warning tone and lights up a coffee cup icon on the speedometer display. The system relies heavily on monitoring steering-wheel input, as a tired driver will drift, then make sharp corrections.

Volvo launched a similar feature last year in the S80, complete with coffee cup icon. During our testing of that car, we tried our hardest to make it think we were falling asleep.

We predict the next generation of this technology won't bother with the warning part, instead automatically driving the car to the next rest stop and letting you nap.