Earlier this year, I wrote an article for Autotrader called "The Best New Automotive Technology for 2019." It covers everything from steering avoidance systems to wireless charging to trailering apps. One of the more bizarre new features I came across in my research for the article was a new technology from Mercedes-Benz that the company refers to as "Pre-Safe Sound." This is a noise the vehicle plays over the stereo if it senses that it may be headed for a collision, and is meant to prime your ears for the boom of the impact.
According to Mercedes-Benz, "If a car crash is imminent, the PRE-SAFE® Sound triggers a reflex in the Stapedius muscle, located in the ear. If the collision is likely to produce a very loud crash, a static sound is played through the car’s audio system. In physics, this sound is described as pink noise, which effectively reduces the impact on your auditory system."
Finding it novel, I opted to include Pre-Safe Sound in my writeup on new automotive tech, and then promptly forgot about it. That is, until a few weeks ago when I was off-roading a new G-Wagen in Moab.
As I was driving spiritedly through a sandy section of the trail I was on with both the audio and HVAC systems turned off, I started to get a little sideways, and then I heard it — the pink noise. It came on abruptly, as it’s meant to do, and scared the absolute hell out of me. One moment, there was near silence, and the next, this rough static-y sound blasting through the speakers. After a few seconds, it was gone.
It just so happened that I was attempting to make a video at the time the sound came on, so I wound up recording both the sound, and my candid reaction, which you can see in the video above. I was pretty freaked out.
Altogether, Pre-Safe Sound is quietly one of the most cutting-edge safety features offered in any new vehicle today, and not only could it theoretically help to protect a person’s eardrums in the event of a powerful collision, but it could also help them to regain their bearings in the aftermath of the collision more quickly, thus reducing the likelihood of further incident. Find a Mercedes-Benz G-Class for sale
Chris O’Neill grew up in the Rust Belt and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He worked in the auto industry for awhile, helping Germans design cars for Americans. Follow him on Instagram: @MountainWestCarSpotter.