What does an average chicken have in common with the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S550? Both have sophisticated suspension systems. In its latest advertisement, the German automaker jiggles and bounces around a few chickens to demonstrate the general idea behind its Magic Body Control adaptive suspension.
What's being illustrated here is a behavior known as the vestibulo-ocular reflex, which allows animals to isolate the movement of their eyes from the movement of their bodies, stabilizing their vision.
In the case of the chicken, the reflex also isolates the movement of its entire head, allowing the birds to keep their skulls remarkably stationary even as their bodies are moved, lifted, and tilted about.
I first saw the vestibulo-ocular reflex demonstrated some time ago by Destin of the "SmarterEveryDay" YouTube channel, where he later went on to attempt to build a chicken-powered camera stabilizer by clipping a cheap digital camcorder to a rooster's head.
Meanwhile in the Benz, Magic Ride Control keeps the driver and vehicle chassis stable while the wheels follow the bumps and contours of the road. Using sensors, magnetic dampers, and a pair of cameras located at the top of the windshield that scan the road for imperfections, the system is able to adjust the suspension hundreds of times per second to soak up bumps and potholes.
A chicken costs about $10 according to a quick and dirty Google search, comes standard with the vestibulo-ocular reflex, and is available now wherever livestock is sold. The 2014 S-Class will probably crest $100,000 when equipped with the optional Magic Ride Control feature when it hits the road and Mercedes-Benz dealerships later this year.