Make autonomous safety tech standard on CKD Mercedes-Benzes in Malaysia

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I’m one of the administrators of Malaysia’s W205 group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/MBw205my/ and I’ve a message for all Mercedes-Benz owners in Malaysia.

Do you know that your vehicle is severely crippled when it comes to safety technology? Do you realize that even a Honda CR-V (with Honda Sensing - https://paultan.org/2017/06/16/driven-2017-honda-cr-v-with-honda-sensing-first-impressions/ or a Mazda CX-5 (with i-ActivSense - https://paultan.org/2016/07/20/gallery-mazda-cx-5-skyactiv-d-diesel-at-saujana/)has better safety technology compared to your supposedly high-tech and prestigious Mercedes?

This is, unfortunately, a fact when it comes to Malaysian Mercedes-Benz vehicles. Only the S-class, GLE 400 SUV, GLE 450 coupe, GLS-class and all 63 AMG models come with Driving Assistance Package Plus. All other models (A-class, C-class, E-class, etc.) DO NOT have it.

What is Driving Assistance Package Plus? It is a suite of autonomous safety technology that goes in preventing a crash from even happening in the first place. Although all Mercedes vehicles in Malaysia have Collision Prevention Assist Plus/Active Brake Assist as standard, this is NOT enough in preventing a crash from happening.

Collision Prevention Assist Plus/Active Brake Assist (CPA+/ABA) only applies 40% braking power at 105 kph and below. This means that the vehicle can only fully avoid a crash at 60 kph and below, and at speeds between 60-105 kph, it can only reduce the vehicle’s velocity to reduce the impact severity. This system also will not be able to prevent a crash in cross-traffic situations (i.e. a vehicle coming out of a side street without looking left or right, henceforth blundering into your path).

Driving Assistance Package Plus (DAP+) adds the following technology:
• Distronic Plus with Steering Assist + Stop&Go Pilot. In other words, this is radar/adaptive cruise control coupled with steering assist. It maintains the distance of your vehicle from the one in front of you (based on the distance you set), and brakes accordingly to maintain the distance (all the way to a standstill if needed). In traffic jam situations, you’d never need to touch the brake or steer at all, because the car can drive itself in traffic jam situations (although you do have to touch the steering wheel every 10-15 seconds to let the system know that you’re awake).

• BAS Plus with Cross Traffic Assist. CPA+ won’t help you if a vehicle suddenly blunders into your path in front of you (because CPA+ radar only scans forwards, not sideways. Plus, it can’t react fast enough to vehicles blundering into your path out of a side street), but BAS Plus with Cross Traffic Assist will be able to detect cross-traffic situations and boost the braking power to 100% if necessary.

• Pre-Safe Brake with pedestrian recognition. CPA+ won’t help you if a pedestrian suddenly jumps out of a sidewalk and right into your path, but Pre-Safe Brake with pedestrian recognition will slam on the brakes for you should someone suddenly walk into your path without looking. Also, Pre-Safe Brake extends the application of CPA+/ABA to 200 kph and will apply full braking power (not just 40%) if necessary to prevent a crash.

• Rear-end collision prevention. In the event that you're stationary and there is a vehicle rapidly approaching you from behind, the car will apply full braking power to keep the car stationary, tighten the seatbelts and flash the brake lights and rear hazard indicators rapidly at the vehicle behind to warn that your vehicle is stationary. In the event of a collision, whiplash will be reduced as the car has tightened the seatbelts and applied full braking power to prevent the car from sliding.

• Active Blind Spot Assist. This is particularly useful on Malaysian roads, where motorbike riders love riding in a vehicle’s blind spot area. If you’re about to change lanes and there’s something in your blind spot, you will be warned by a flashing red triangle in your side mirror. The system can also steer you away from the hazard if you’re drifting towards it.

• Active Lane Keep Assist. In the event that you’re drowsy and start drifting out of your lane, the system will gently steer you back into your lane. It tracks lane markings on the road, as well as vehicles in front of you (if any) to help you stay in lane.

• In the case of the E-class, DAP+ adds Drive Pilot, which is a semi-autopilot functionality that can even change lanes automatically for you when you indicate. Plus, the hands-off period from the steering wheel is longer.

Unfortunately, Mercedes-Benz Malaysia treats the Malaysian market like a bunch of peasants. Why? Malaysian consumers are to blame as well. The typical Malaysian consumer only wants badge and looks, and does not care much about safety. Most Malaysians are just satisfied with basic ABS, VSC and walking away from a crash alive. This is not enough and has to change. It is much better to prevent a crash in a first place, rather than crashing and then escaping unhurt.

We deserve better, considering that Malaysian driving conditions are more dangerous compared to developed countries such as Australia, Germany, etc. If the highest-end variant of a Honda CR-V can have almost all the functionality of DAP+, why not Mercedes? Even the Malaysian-spec BMW G30 530i (CBU) has almost all of the functionality of DAP+ as standard, while the CKD version omits radar cruise control, but is still in a better shape than what's available in CKD W213s.

Why can Mercedes-Benz Malaysia get away with high pricing while not providing crucial autonomous safety technology? Here is the response from a Cycle and Carriage dealer:

"The local Malaysian market is still not mature enough to ask for specific safety items. Customers are still chasing prestige rather than practicality. A lot of customers still do not know what they want in a car, rather they prefer what premium brand they can afford to drive home in. General customers tend to think it’s a safe car anyway without really dwelling into the reality of what they really got on board. Hence MBM can get away with such pricing, where they only equip those RM500k (most of it except for high performance AMG) and above models with such “necessary” safety items."

Human life does not have a price tag attached. MBM should at least make DAP+ standard on the highest-end model of every class (e.g. C300/C350e, E250 Exclusive), if not on every model, for those who want the added safety would be buying these models in the first place and would not mind paying extra.

Just because the majority of the consumers don't want safety or are unaware of it doesn't mean that the vocal minority wanting safety should be denied the option of buying CKD models with DAP+. It is unreasonable to ask us to pay extra in CBU taxes to buy a custom-build CBU unit with the safety pack, when it can be fitted at the factory (look at the S-class - that's a CKD model with DAP+). Alternatively, dealerships should be trained to retrofit DAP+ to existing vehicles if customers want it. It may seem unfeasible in the short term, but give it a try. You never know.

Change starts from us. Complaining to our dealership is a good start. Sending emails to Mercedes-Benz Malaysia is another way. If we send enough feedback to MBM (customercare_my@daimler.com), things might change soon enough for the better.

Thank you.



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