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Safety as a system.

When it comes to vehicle safety, a clear distinction is made between passive and active safety. Whereas passive safety includes design-specific solutions that protect people from the effects of an accident, active safety technology helps the driver mitigate or avoid accidents altogether.

Targeted safety development really gained momentum in the mid-1950s, when Mercedes-Benz began to carry out in-depth research and defined important principles.

Starting in the 2000s, both types of safety development were blended into the Mercedes-Benz concept of integral safety. Today, the intuitive and sophisticated technologies behind Intelligent Drive lay the groundwork for tomorrow’s safety culture.

Rocket science: safety development at Mercedes-Benz has also included crash tests since 1959.

Rocket science: safety development at Mercedes-Benz has also included crash tests since 1959.

Pioneer in safety: Béla Barényi invents numerous Mercedes-Benz innovations for passive safety, including the safety steering column (left) and the safety-enhanced body (right).

Pioneer in safety: Béla Barényi invents numerous Mercedes-Benz innovations for passive safety, including the safety steering column (left) and the safety-enhanced body (right).

Never passive: Béla Barényi.

On 1 August 1939, engineer Béla Barényi started his work. He is driving forward various developments, including passive safety. The definition of active and passive safety in 1966 also dates back to Barényi and Hans Scherenberg, a member of the Board of Management of what was then Daimler-Benz AG.

Barényi himself is anything but passive, however, as he filed more than 2,500 patents throughout the course of his life. In recognition of his merits, he was admitted to the Automotive Hall of Fame (AHOF) in Dearborn, Michigan (USA) on 16 September 1994.

One lock ensures safety.

Karl Wilfert also pioneered passive safety. In the mid-1950s, he headed the testing department, single-car design construction and several assembly departments at Mercedes-Benz.

On 23 April 1949, he applied to receive a patent for his safety pin door lock, which solved the problem of older locks frequently releasing and opening car doors in relatively harmless collisions.

At the helm in the name of safety. In the 1950s, Karl Wilfert headed the Mercedes-Benz testing department and worked to develop key solutions to promote vehicle safety.

At the helm in the name of safety: In the 1950s, Karl Wilfert headed the Mercedes-Benz testing department and worked to develop key solutions to promote vehicle safety.

New terms: the safety body – with its "crumple zones" at the front and rear – celebrated its world premiere in 1959 in the “fintail” saloon variants of the Mercedes-Benz W 111 model series.

New terms: the safety body – with its “crumple zones” at the front and rear – celebrated its world premiere in 1959 in the “fintail” saloon variants of the Mercedes-Benz W 111 model series.

The invention of crumple zones.

In the 1950s, Barényi had an ingenious idea that eventually made its way into series production – a passenger car body that absorbs and dissipates the kinetic energy generated in a collision by deforming at the front or rear ends in a targeted, predefined manner. The passengers themselves are protected by a rigid, centrally positioned cell structure.

This “safety-enhanced body”, patented in 1951, entered series production at Mercedes-Benz in September 1959, starting with the “fintail” luxury saloon variants of the W 111 model series. Colloquially, the new design at the front and rear was soon referred to as the “crumple zone”.

Holistic concept.

The wedge pin door lock also debuted in the “fintail” saloons of the W 111 model series and ensured that the doors remain closed in an accident, thus ensuring maximum stability of the passenger compartment.

Complementing this were the “soft interior”, with its lack of hard and sharp-edged controls, and the steering wheel with large impact plate and plastically deforming structural element positioned between the impact absorber and steering column. Overall, the W 111 model series became an early example of the commitment of Mercedes-Benz to the holistic safety concept.

When safety goes all in: the W 111 model series integrates various different solutions for passive safety.

When safety goes all in: the W 111 model series integrates various different solutions for passive safety.

Crash premiere: the first crash test by Mercedes-Benz involving an entire vehicle took place on 10 September 1959.

Crash premiere: the first crash test by Mercedes-Benz involving an entire vehicle took place on 10 September 1959.

Crash tests since 1959.

In 1959, Mercedes-Benz also started to conduct systematic accident tests with fully assembled vehicles, otherwise known as “crash tests”. Prior to this, however, individual vehicle components had already been tested using acceleration carriages.

The tests were carried out in the open air at the Sindelfingen plant until 1973. Today, the more than 8,000 square metre crash hall, which opened there in 2016, is a state-of-the-art facility used to conduct crash test exercises ─ a safety aspect which is still indispensable to this day.

Networked research on the airbag.

For 50 years, data from real traffic accidents has also been incorporated into the Mercedes-Benz safety development programme. Since 1969, the accident research department has analysed and reconstructed collisions that actually took place.

When conducting safety research, Mercedes-Benz also collaborates in networks. In the 1970s, the company developed a total of more than 30 experimental safety vehicles (ESF) for the worldwide research project of Experimental Safety Vehicles (ESV).

In the 1974 ESF 24, for example, which was based on the S-Class of the 116 model series, several pioneering innovations in passive safety were tested, with driver airbags and belt force limiters eventually debuting in the S-Class 126 model series in 1981. Seats with integrated belt anchors first entered series production in 1989 in the 129 model series SL.

Research in practice: fifty years ago, in 1969, Mercedes-Benz began targeted accident research.

Research in practice: fifty years ago, in 1969, Mercedes-Benz began targeted accident research.

The automatically extending rollbar represents a milestone in passive safety for open-air vehicles.

The automatically extending rollbar represents a milestone in passive safety for open-air vehicles.

Important overall details.

Holistic designs are just as important to the success story behind Mercedes-Benz vehicle safety as critical details. One such detail is the automatically triggered rollbar of the Mercedes-Benz SL (R 129 model series), which debuted at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1989.

The operative function of the rollbar is enabled by advanced developments in electronics and sensor technology. When not in use, the high-strength steel tube bracket elegantly retracts in front of the soft top compartment. During an impending rollover event, the vehicle sensors register the danger and activate the rollbar, which extends in just 0.3 seconds to ensure that the passengers are protected above their heads.

Safety has a future.

Passive safety from Mercedes-Benz is a success story. After all, numerous passive safety innovations pioneered by Mercedes-Benz over the course of eight decades are now integrated as part of a holistic integral safety concept. Many of these engineering solutions have also raised the bar worldwide.

And further development never stops as Mercedes-Benz leverages today’s high standards in numerous projects dedicated to future dimensions of vehicle safety. In so doing, developers never lose sight of the concept of passive safety.

The Mercedes-Benz ESF 24 experimental safety vehicle from 1974 was used as a platform for testing driver airbags, belt force limiters and integral seats, among other innovations.

The Mercedes-Benz ESF 24 experimental safety vehicle from 1974 was used as a platform for testing driver airbags, belt force limiters and integral seats, among other innovations.

Kraftstoffverbrauch kombiniert CO₂-Emissionen kombiniert Stromverbrauch im kombinierten Testzyklus

Product may vary after press date on 04.02.2019.

1 Die angegebenen Werte wurden nach dem vorgeschriebenen Messverfahren ermittelt. Es handelt sich um die „NEFZ-CO₂-Werte“ i. S. v. Art. 2 Nr. 1 Durchführungsverordnung (EU) 2017/1153. Die Kraftstoffverbrauchswerte wurden auf Basis dieser Werte errechnet. Der Stromverbrauch wurde auf der Grundlage der VO 692/2008/EG ermittelt. Weitere Informationen zum offiziellen Kraftstoffverbrauch und den offiziellen spezifischen CO₂-Emissionen neuer Personenkraftwagen können dem „Leitfaden über den Kraftstoffverbrauch, die CO₂-Emissionen und den Stromverbrauch aller neuen Personenkraftwagenmodelle“ entnommen werden, der an allen Verkaufsstellen und bei der Deutschen Automobil Treuhand GmbH unter www.dat.de unentgeltlich erhältlich ist.

2 Die angegebenen Werte sind die „gemessenen NEFZ-CO₂-Werte“ i. S. v. Art. 2 Nr. 2 Durchführungsverordnung (EU) 2017/1153, die im Einklang mit Anhang XII der Verordnung (EG) Nr. 692/2008 ermittelt wurden. Die Kraftstoffverbrauchswerte wurden auf Basis dieser Werte errechnet. Der Stromverbrauch wurde auf der Grundlage der VO 692/2008/EG ermittelt. Aufgrund gesetzlicher Änderungen der maßgeblichen Prüfverfahren können in der für die Fahrzeugzulassung und ggf. Kfz-Steuer maßgeblichen Übereinstimmungsbescheinigung des Fahrzeugs höhere Werte eingetragen sein. Weitere Informationen zum offiziellen Kraftstoffverbrauch und den offiziellen spezifischen CO₂-Emissionen neuer Personenkraftwagen können dem „Leitfaden über den Kraftstoffverbrauch und die CO₂-Emissionen neuer Personenkraftwagen“ entnommen werden, der an allen Verkaufsstellen und bei der Deutschen Automobil Treuhand GmbH unter www.dat.de unentgeltlich erhältlich ist.

4 Angaben zu Kraftstoffverbrauch, Stromverbrauch und CO₂-Emissionen sind vorläufig und wurden vom Technischen Dienst für das Zertifizierungsverfahren nach Maßgabe des WLTP-Prüfverfahrens ermittelt und in NEFZ-Werte korreliert. Eine EG-Typgenehmigung und Konformitätsbescheinigung mit amtlichen Werten liegen noch nicht vor. Abweichungen zwischen den Angaben und den amtlichen Werten sind möglich.

6 Stromverbrauch und Reichweite wurden auf der Grundlage der VO 692/2008/EG ermittelt. Stromverbrauch und Reichweite sind abhängig von der Fahrzeugkonfiguration. Weitere Informationen zum offiziellen Kraftstoffverbrauch und den offiziellen spezifischen CO₂-Emissionen neuer Personenkraftwagen können dem „Leitfaden über den Kraftstoffverbrauch, die CO₂-Emissionen und den Stromverbrauch aller neuen Personenkraftwagenmodelle“ entnommen werden, der an allen Verkaufsstellen und bei der Deutschen Automobil Treuhand GmbH unter www.dat.de unentgeltlich erhältlich ist.