X-ray drawing of the Mercedes-Benz Experimental Safety Vehicle (ESF) 13.
The Experimental Safety Vehicle from 1972 scores points with its numerous innovations.
Way ahead of its time.

The silhouette of the Mercedes-Benz passenger car above suggests as much: We are in the 1970s. However, it is not a series-produced vehicle that is on display here, but a very special one-off – the ESF 13 Experimental Safety Vehicle. Unveiled by the brand in 1972, it is based on the “Stroke Eight”, but features some significant changes compared to the upper mid-range saloons. For example, the ESF 13 is 5235 millimetres long – and thus 550 millimetres longer than the series-production version. Among other things, this extra length improves crash safety and provides more interior space, for example for modified passengers’ seats, airbags for all passengers and improved sightlines for the driver. Other innovations include the anti-lock braking system ABS, a headlamp system with halogen light and parallel wipers for the rear window. In short: The research vehicle is way ahead of its time.

Technological pioneer: The Mercedes-Benz ESF 13 is way ahead of its time.

History of innovation: Mercedes-Benz Experimental Safety Vehicles from different eras.

30 Experimental Safety Vehicles.

The initiative for the ESF programme comes from the USA. The aim is to improve the safety of the motor car. As a pioneer in vehicle safety, Mercedes-Benz participates extensively: The ESF 13 is part of a large-scale programme launched by the brand in the 1970s that leads to the creation of more than 30 such vehicle safety innovators.

From this unique history, the Mercedes-Benz Museum is showing the ESF 22 from 1973, which is on display in “Legend Room 5: Visionaries – Safety and the Environment, 1960 to 1982”. And the story continues: Most recently, the ESF 2009 and ESF 2019 premiered in their respective calendar years.

Quantum leap for vehicle safety.

The Mercedes-Benz ESF 13 is one of the highlights of the “3rd International Safety Vehicle Conference” held in Washington, DC from 30 May to 2 June 1972. A public exhibition of twelve ESFs from European, Japanese and US manufacturers accompanies the safety conference and gives around one million visitors from all over the world “a striking glimpse into the future of safer driving and vehicle safety”, as the conference report says.

It also underlines the claim that the highly focused development of ESF for vehicle safety represents “a 'quantum jump' over the customary year-by-year, step-by-step evolution in the auto industry”.

Improved crash safety via numerous measures: The body of the ESF 13, for example, offers more deformation space.

Numerous inner values: for example a safety steering wheel with impact absorber, seat belts that fasten automatically when the door is closed, and airbags for all occupants.

Innovations for the benefit of customers.

The ESF 13 fulfils the claim described above. The solutions for driver-fitness, operational and perceptual safety shown with it correspond to the cutting-edge state of Daimler-Benz safety research at the time in 1972.

The customers benefit from this: Many of the innovations make their way into the brand's production vehicles over the ensuing years.

Safety systems – yesterday, today, tomorrow.

Today, vehicle safety is once again making revolutionary progress. The brand known by its three-pointed star is once again a pioneer in the development of new solutions for the future.

This is because corresponding safety concepts are also part of Mercedes-Benz's transformation towards sustainable mobility with alternative drives, digitalisation and connected and automated driving. 

They range from innovative solutions for active and passive safety to high-voltage safety concepts for electric vehicles. The experts are also conducting research into possible accident scenarios that might arise in future mixed traffic that includes automated cars. One thing connects past, present and future: the spirit to develop the best possible safety systems for personal mobility.

The new Mercedes-Benz S-Class 223 series with a new type of frontal airbag.

Always with an eye to potential use in series production: The new frontal airbag for rear passengers celebrates its world premiere in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class 223 model series, launched in 2020.

Heute macht die Fahrzeugsicherheit wieder epochale Fortschritte. Die Marke mit dem Stern ist erneut Vorreiter bei der Entwicklung neuer Lösungen für die Zukunft. Denn Teil der Transformation von Mercedes-Benz hin zu einer nachhaltigen Mobilität mit alternativen Antrieben, Digitalisierung sowie vernetztem und automatisiertem Fahren sind auch entsprechende Sicherheitskonzepte. 

Sie reichen von innovativen Lösungen für die aktive und passive Sicherheit bis zu Hochvolt-Sicherheitskonzepten für Elektrofahrzeuge. Auch mögliche Unfallszenarien im künftigen Mischverkehr mit automatisiert fahrenden Automobilen erforschen die Experten. Eines verbindet Vergangenheit, Gegenwart und Zukunft: der Spirit, die bestmöglichen Sicherheitssysteme für die persönliche Mobilität zu entwickeln.