Space for Everyone! Variable, spacious and accessible for everyone: Mercedes-Benz Vans with driving aids.

Variable, spacious and accessible for everyone: Mercedes-Benz Vans with driving aids.

Since 2010, Mercedes-Benz has set itself the goal of enabling greater mobility for people with disabilities with a range of factory-produced driving aids. "Previously, a two-year pilot project at Daimler Business Innovation looked in detail at which products best meet the mobility-related needs of people with disabilities," said Matthias Heil, who is responsible for the introduction of the driving aid portfolio in Stuttgart. The fact that there are nevertheless no universal solutions seems to make sense given the specific requirements of each individual driver. "In the pre-sale phase, when talking to the customer, we need to identify their requirements and advise them accordingly." This is a job that only trained employees can handle to the satisfaction of all involved.

Driving aids are not installed in the vehicles until they have passed all of the tests.

Special, wheelchair-accessible sales and service outlets and sales personnel for driving aids from the factory (More Mobility Centers) help customers with their decision-making. But of course it is not just the advice itself but also the installed driving aids that need to be of the utmost quality. Mercedes-Benz works with capable and experienced partners in order to achieve this. While Matthias Heil insists that all of the driving aids are high-quality products, each one is still subjected to rigorous testing.

"This ranges from the materials used and the integration of the aids into our cars to the prescribed tests in terms of material stresses and the risk to occupants in the event of a dangerous situation," he said. The driving aids are not installed in the vehicles at the Sindelfingen plant until the driving aids have passed all of the tests. A recent addition to the big representatives of the Mercedes-Benz family. "We are very proud to now also be able to offer our model series from the Van division with factory-installed driving aids for owner-drivers," Heil reported. Countless inquiries from customers in recent years show that this is a step in the right direction.

We are very proud to now also be able to offer our model series from the Van division with factory-installed driving aids for owner-drivers

Matthias Heil

All-round carefree

As has already been the case for many other models from Stuttgart, there is an impressive range of individual solutions for people with physical disabilities available for the V-Class, Vito and Citan. In cases of limited leg function, for example, there are a number of hand operation devices for the accelerator and brake that can blend perfectly into the interior of the Mercedes-Benz models thanks to the optional leather covering. All of the models can be equipped with a robust pedal cover in order to avoid the involuntary use of the pedals when using the manual control. In the V-Class and Vito the accelerator can also be moved to the left-hand side. A multi-functional rotating knob makes steering the roomy Mercedes vehicles easier, and the optional mechanical repositioning of the indicator and cruise control selection lever rounds off the portfolio of control modifications. The Citan's leatherette entrance guard helps wheelchair users enter the vehicle without scratching the paint or getting their clothes dirty. A solution as simple as it is ingenious.

Hand in hand with body manufacturers

In order to make the vans as disability-friendly as possible, Mercedes-Benz works with a number of professional body manufacturers in order to find more mobility solutions. These kinds of custom-made vehicle modifications are a big help for making everyday life easier for wheelchair users. Among other things, the company AMF-Bruns in Lower Saxony uses the V-Class's large sliding door to allow wheelchair users to enter the vehicle from the side using a K90 wheelchair lift. The lift system is mounted under the door aperture – with both the vehicle's interior and the shape of the body remaining intact. Measuring 800 x 1200 millimeters and with a maximum load-bearing capacity of 300 kilos, the K90 is suitable even for wide electric wheelchairs. An automatic roll-over flap and two indicator lights to warn other road users when visibility is poor ensure that wheelchair users are protected as much as they can be. The wheelchair lift, which weighs 150 kilos in total, is protected from the elements thanks to the use of high-quality materials. The platform takes about eight seconds to lower, and even as little as six to raise.

The company MobiTEC in Berkheim, for example, offers another clever solution for wheelchair users. The body manufacturer's development engineers have made use of the Mercedes-Benz Citan's generous load space as an opportunity for the passive transportation of wheelchair users. This requires major work on the vehicle's architecture. In order to provide access to the Citan, MobiTEC lowers the load compartment floor by several centimeters and attaches a 1.3-meter, collapsible aluminum access ramp directly to the load compartment sill. In the interior, a four-point wheelchair securing system with a lap belt and automatic shoulder restraint ensure the highest possible degree of safety for occupants. Hand grips underscore this approach, and a wheelchair headrest provides the necessary comfort on long journeys. A cable winch mounted in the interior guarantees problem-free access without too much effort. Despite making extensive modifications to the vehicle (such as the installation of an altered fuel tank), the Mercedes-Benz Citan retains both its functionality and its suitability for everyday use. The rear parking sensors are repositioned, and even the original rear bench seat remains entirely unaffected by the modifications in the long version of the Citan. There is even a solution for people with minimal mobility.

The company Paravan offers a road-licensed Space Drive II drive-by-wire system with triple redundancy for driving using a joystick in the V-Class. You can tell the extent to which Mercedes-Benz trusts the work of its body manufacturers by the fact that the Stuttgart-based company issues a certificate of non-objection. Certificates have already been issued for MobiTEC and Paravan's Space Drive II system. The wheelchair lift of AMF-Bruns will be receiving one soon. The warranty on the basic vehicle remains valid when retrofitted solutions have certificates of non-objection.

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