When: Fall 1992
Where: Frankfurt International Motor Show (IAA)
What: New commercial vehicle concept focusing on aerodynamics, ergonomics, an attractive living environment and innovative lighting systems
- Aerodynamic, fully streamlined design
- Proximity radar -> introduced (as DISTRONIC) in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class (W 220)
- Centrally positioned driver’s seat
- New instrumentation and control concept
- Rear-view mirrors replaced by video cameras and monitors
- Gas discharge headlamps -> introduced (as xenon headlamps) in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class (W 140)
- LED rear lights -> introduced 2003 in the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren (C 199)
- LED turn signals -> introduced 2003 in the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren (C 199)
- Keys replaced by chip card -> introduced 1999 in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class (W 220)
- Electrochromic glazing -> introduced 2002 in the Maybach (W 240)
The aim of every Mercedes is to promote the individual mobility of its owner. This thinking extends not just to Mercedes-Benz cars but also to Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicles. And sometimes, as in the case of the EXT-92 truck concept presented at the 1992 Frankfurt International Motor Show (IAA), it is extended even beyond road transport. EXT-92 was designed as part of a Mercedes-developed integrated intermodal freight transport concept for the future. The idea was to integrate the different modes of transport commercial vehicles, rail, shipping and air and to ensure that the specific advantages of each were used to maximum advantage. This in turn would make it possible to manage growing transport volumes, while at the same time improving road safety and traffic flow within the existing road network. Naturally Mercedes-Benz, as a long-established automotive manufacturer, approached the issue of integrated transport above all from the standpoint of the road transport sector.
The EXT-92 (Euro Experimental Truck) concept was designed for use in European long-distance road haulage. All aspects of this highly advanced tractor/semitrailer rig incorporated the very latest 1992 state of the art.
EXT-92 had particularly eye-catching styling, which was closely focused on aerodynamic and safety requirements. Drag was much lower than on a conventional truck. In fact the EXT-92’s drag coefficient (Cd) of 0.35 came close to that of a car. When traveling in a straight line, a special fifth-wheel coupling pulled the semitrailer closer in to the cab, reducing the intervening gap to about 10 centimeters. To minimize turbulence at the rear of the rig, automatically extending deflectors were fitted to the rear edge of the semitrailer. The excellent aerodynamic efficiency had the effect of reducing fuel consumption and emissions.
The styling was a reinterpretation of characteristic Mercedes-Benz styling practices. The fully streamlined bodywork and the fully enclosed wheels also had benefits for other road users, acting as a lateral underride guard and at the same time preventing spray in wet-weather operation. Hidden behind the Mercedes star at the front was a further safety feature: a proximity radar system. In combination with a visibility-measuring device, this warned the driver of obstructions in the vehicle’s path or if the vehicle was getting too close to traffic in front in conditions of poor visibility.
To open the two-part outward-swinging door, the driver used a personal chip card. Three steps, with no ladder, offered standing access to the cab. The seat, too, was easily reached: positioned on a platform in the center of the cab, it automatically swiveled 30 degrees toward the entrance while the instrument panel and steering column moved out of the way at the same time. Once the driver was installed, his preferred settings including those for the ventilation and radio were reactivated by the data stored on the chip card.
A key feature of EXT-92 was ergonomic design
The steering wheel could be individually adjusted to the driver’s requirements and the height of the instrumentation and controls automatically followed suit. The central, elevated seating position provided improved protection for the driver in the event of an accident. The steering wheel impact absorber housed a specially shaped airbag.
All instruments and controls were clearly arranged by function. The central display unit was flanked on either side by 10-inch monitors which showed the driver what was going on right the way round the vehicle and had many more capabilities than conventional rear-view mirrors. Amongst other things the six video cameras installed at points all over the vehicle scanned the areas directly in front of and behind the vehicle and eliminated the blind spot.
The fixed impact absorber in the steering wheel, which housed the airbag, also featured buttons for frequently used functions such as the horn, station search, sound volume and windshield wipers. These multifunctional buttons allowed the driver to call up a wide range of information in the central display and to control a variety of vehicle systems. Depending on the task in hand, the buttons "dynamically" altered their symbols and functions. The parking brake and gearshift were combined in a single seat-mounted lever, whose position indicated the current status of these functions.
Anywhere in Europe, state-of-the-art communication technology including a fax, telephone and CB radio, allowed the driver to stay in touch with fleet headquarters, other drivers and customers.
Since a long-distance truck serves as both a living and a working environment, the cab of the EXT-02 was designed to make life on board as pleasant as possible on long journeys. The specification included a kitchen unit with microwave, refrigerator and freezer compartments, a coffee machine, a sink and two folding tables. An assortment of surfaces, cupboards and drawers provided ample stowage space for personal effects. When required the 80-centimeter-wide bunk could be converted to a seat bench, while the co-driver’s seat, with its reclining function, leg rest and multi-way adjustment, offered long-haul comfort on a par with a first-class airline seat. The electrochromic windows were automatically or manually adjustable for tinting. They could even be dimmed right down so as to darken the cab during rest breaks.
The advanced lighting technology of the EXT-92 was developed specially for this concept vehicle. The rear lights consisted of numerous LEDs which formed a band right across the vehicle. LED technology provided the basis for a very visible and flexible rear warning system. The driver of the EXT-92 could even inform and warn traffic behind about traffic conditions in front of the vehicle which they would otherwise be unaware of.
The front light units housed the dipped beam, main beam and fog lamp, along with special "maneuvering lights" for the critical areas in front of and behind the vehicle. The dipped beam was provided by a gas discharge lamp today known by the name xenon headlamp which provided significantly improved road illumination. Like the rear lights, the front turn signals were LED-based.
The Mercedes-Benz EXT-92 created quite a stir in 1992. And even if modern tractor units haven’t (yet) caught up with its futuristic styling, many of the interior features have already been incorporated into trucks of today. With EXT-92, Mercedes-Benz has once again proved the point that the technology of a concept vehicle stands or falls by its future relevance.