The S-Class has long been known as a Mercedes' platform for innovation of all kinds, especially technology and safety features. That's never been more true, and for 2009, the E-Class will join it with some of the most advanced systems yet. Those systems were demonstrated today at a safety conference in Leipzig, where Mercedes outlined its near-term plans.

Driver assistance systems, advanced sensing technology including radar and cameras, plus intelligent situational awareness software are being combined in novel ways to enhance safety. Not the least of those is the idea of the 'electronic crumple zone', another name for the pre-accident preparations Mercedes' cars will take.

The goal is to make a car that effectively thinks for itself, avoiding accidents where possible, adjusting what it must to help improve occupant protection when the collision is unavoidable and sensing the environment around it at all times.

In addition to computer-monitored camera and radar systems, the E-Class will be the first to feature adaptive headlamps that adjust to the driving situation. Able to detect oncoming traffic or moving vehicles, the system continuously adjusts the headlamps to provide the best possilbe range in a manner that's safe for cars around as well. By making these continual adjustments, Mercedes claims the low-beam sight range can be extended from 215ft (65m) up to 1,000ft (300m).

Other technologies demonstrated include lane-departure assist and speed limit assist, both of which use the aid of cameras to help the driver maintain proper position and speed. The speed limit assist system is similar in function to the Opel system recently announced, and has the ability to recognize street signs and display warnings in the instrument cluster.

Attention assist, pre-safe seat belt tensioning and brake pre-application technology, plus details on Mercedes' crash-testing program were also part of the program.