A high level of safety is one of the core values of the brand with the three-pointed star. Mercedes-Benz is the world’s first van manufacturer to offer the innovative Crosswind Assist from the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter for campers based on this popular van. Camper specialist Hymer, a trusted cooperation partner for 43 years, equips its semi-integrated Hymer ML-T model with the system. This makes it the first motorhome to have Crosswind Assist as standard.
Whether on the way to Scandinavia across the Fehmarnbelt Bridge, or on a tour to southern France using the Rhône Valley Bridge while the mistral is blowing – most camper drivers have felt the unpleasant effects of crosswinds. These popular recreational vehicles are inherently more susceptible to crosswinds than passenger cars, as the high, vertical side walls present a larger surface to the wind. The side area of a normal camper with a length of around seven metres amounts to almost 20m² – while that of a Mercedes-Benz saloon car it is not even one third of this.
Reason enough for Mercedes-Benz to offer Crosswind Assist, which is standard equipment for most variants of the current Sprinter generation, for campers as well.
New dimension in safety technology
Together with Lane Keeping Assist, Blind Spot Assist, Highbeam Assist and COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST, Crosswind Assist is one of five new assistance systems with which the Sprinter achieved a completely new dimension of safety technology in the van segment last year.Crosswind Assist virtually eliminates the effects of gusts acting on the vehicle, within the bounds of the laws of physics. The necessary countersteering in sudden gusts of crosswind can be substantially reduced, which considerably eases the strain on the driver.
Specific braking intervention to counter wind effects
Crosswind Assist is activated automatically from a speed of 80 km/h and uses the sensors of the standard-fit Electronic Stability Program ESP®. A sensor detects the forces acting on the vehicle when crosswinds or sudden gusts occur and applies braking action to individual wheels on the side facing the wind. This braking torque creates a yawing motion which counters the effect of the crosswind. The track deviation is thus significantly reduced. This tangibly reduces the strain on the driver, avoiding inappropriate driver responses in gusting winds. The driver’s attention is also drawn to the system’s intervention by an indicator lamp in the instrument cluster.
Numerous parameters used for the control process
The ESP® sensors not only recognise a constant crosswind and sudden gusts of varying strengths, but also register the wind’s angle of incidence. The response by Crosswind Assist also takes into account the vehicle speed, load condition and distribution and steering behaviour. If the driver countersteers manually, Crosswind Assist is automatically suppressed.
Crosswind Assist in a practical test
A camper is cruising along steadily at 100 km/h. Suddenly it is caught by a strong crosswind with a speed of 80 km/h, force 9 on the Beaufort scale. If the driver fails to react quickly and decisively the gust will cause the camper van to veer into the next lane.
Second attempt: This time, the driver is sitting in a Hymer ML-T with Crosswind Assist as standard. Travelling at the same speed, a sudden crosswind of the same strength occurs.However, with no countersteering action, the camper is brought only briefly and slightly off-track and remains in its lane. In addition the driver is warned by a display in the instrument cluster.
This spectacular comparison took place on the Daimler AG test track in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim. It is here, at the heart of the company, that passenger cars, vans and heavy commercial vehicles have been tested for almost 60 years. Uphill and downhill ramps with gradients of up to 70 percent, broken surfaces and articulation stretches, a skidpan with various surfaces and also an oval with a spectacular banked curve – this is where test engineers subject the vehicles of tomorrow to harsh tests.
The crosswind generator is one of the key facilities on this test site. Its 16 turbines each have a diameter of two metres and the total motor output is 720 kW (979 hp). Test procedure: Test vehicles are driven past the blowers at 100 km/h with no countersteering action and the deviation from the original course is measured 16 m after passing through.