People love trying tests like seeing whether you can curl your tongue or raise a single eyebrow, but Mercedes-Benz has a trick we’ll be happy not to test: Blasting pink noise at them causes our eardrums to reset to a safe mode where they are more tolerant of loud noise.
This is known as the ‘stapedius reflex,’ and Mercedes Pre-Safe Sound exploits this reflex to protect occupants in its cars.
Pre-Safe sound employs the car’s sound system to provide that 80-decibel blast of static-like noise at occupants when the electronic stability control computer thinks maybe you’ve messed things up so badly that a crash is imminent.
Not only can crashes be noisy, but the pyrotechnic charges carmakers use to fire off airbags can be stunningly loud. Remember that police and soldiers employ “flash-bang” firecrackers to stun people when rushing into a room. Drivers can be similarly stunned by the noise of the airbag deployment just when they’ll probably need their wits about them to deal with the aftermath of the crash.
Pre-Safe Sound’s static noise provides occupants a 40 percent reduction in the noise exposure impact, according to Mercedes. The company says that its research shows that there are a couple seconds’ warning in about two-thirds of all crashes, providing the opportunity to help protect eardrums for many of its cars’ occupants.
“We hope our drivers and passengers never experience these features firsthand, but as an industry leader for safety innovations, Mercedes-Benz wants to ensure the appropriate systems are in place to help prevent or reduce the severity of accidents for everyone on the road,” said spokesperson Catherine Gebhardt.
Our Autotrader.com colleague Chris O'Neill had the opportunity to experience Pre-Safe Sound while off-road testing a Mercedes SUV in circumstance which fortunately did not produce an actual crash:
Dan Carney is a Design News senior editor, covering automotive technology, engineering and design, especially emerging electric vehicle and autonomous technologies.