Safety technology – a bright future in store

  • The integrated safety concept from Mercedes-Benz vehicles links various individual systems
  • The brand sets standards in safety development
  • Béla Barényi:  The Father of Passive Safety
  • Safety as an aim of automotive development since Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz

Anti-lock brake systems (ABS), airbags or passenger safety cells – with innovations such as these Mercedes-Benz has revolutionized vehicle safety. For decades, the company has been constantly working on the safety technologies of the future. These efforts have repeatedly set standards in vehicle safety. The developments created by engineers of the Stuttgart-based company improve the safety of millions of automobiles all around the world.

Mercedes-Benz:  Pioneers in the development of safety technology

Vehicle safety is a key priority of Mercedes-Benz for the years ahead – a fact demonstrated by each new model developed by the brand. These comprehensive aspirations are reflected in the integrated safety concept that links together various aspects of active and passive safety to create a holistic system capable of offering optimum protection.

This 170 S, built in 1951, displayed good structural quality during a frontal rigid barrier impact at 50 km/h. Nevertheless, this model still afforded relatively little protection for the occupants

The outstanding reputation of Mercedes-Benz as a driving force behind the development of safe motor vehicles also has a historical dimension. The pursuit of vehicle safety can be traced all the way back to the first years of the automotive era when engineers were primarily concerned with the vehicles’ active safety. From the mid-20th century, the focus of research shifted toward passive safety. This required designers to pursue a comprehensive safety philosophy. Accordingly, Mercedes-Benz is today setting standards in integrated safety by developing forward-looking concepts that strive to achieve the vision of “accident-free driving.” Although this remains a distant goal at present, each new safety development is another step in the right direction.

What does vehicle safety mean?

Mercedes-Benz-developed Brake Assist system

Mercedes-Benz-developed Brake Assist system

Vehicle safety refers to the reduced likelihood that road users will be injured in an accident. However, this simple definition covers a wide range of individual aspects that make up the modern concept of safety in automotive design and production. The most important difference between the various safety aspects is that their aim is either to prevent accidents in the first place or to lessen the consequences of an accident for passengers and other road users.

1939-1959: First accident tests with the bodywork of a Mercedes-Benz 170 S, 1951.

1939-1959: First accident tests with the bodywork of a Mercedes-Benz 170 S, 1951.

In the early 1960s, Fritz Nallinger, the Board of Management member responsible for Development at Daimler-Benz AG, created the terms primary and secondary safety to describe this difference. Nallinger explained primary safety as “the inherent driving safety of the vehicle, the driving safety resulting from simple vehicle handling and the driving safety brought about by the prevention of driver fatigue and driver distraction.” He summarized the term secondary safety as “all efforts which aim to prevent the physical and life-threatening consequences of an accident for all those involved or to reduce them to a minimum.”

Mercedes-Benz 111 series (1959 to 1968) with crumple-zones, rigid passenger cell and seat belts

The Mercedes-Benz engineer Béla Barényi, inventor of the modern automotive bodywork with rigid passenger cell and crumple zones, further developed these terms into a complex system consisting of the different elements that make up a comprehensive passenger car safety concept. As generic terms, Barényi chose the designations active and passive safety and added the concept of preventive safety. These terms were coined in 1964 by the Italian engineer Luigi Locati, and Barényi used them to classify particular aspects such as driving safety, stress-reducing safety, exterior safety and interior safety.

Active, passive and integrated safety

In 1966, Mercedes-Benz Chief Engineer Hans Scherenberg and Béla Barényi finally defined the areas covered by active and passive safety – and the classification they developed is still valid today. Accordingly, active safety includes the fields of driving safety, stress-reducing safety and safe vehicle operation. The passive safety of a vehicle includes the interior and exterior safety. Research and development in the following decades were based on these concepts of vehicle safety.

PRE-SAFE®, preventative occupant protection system

Current vehicle safety solutions focus on combining both areas and the resulting modern concept is known as integrated safety. Introduced with the S-Class in 2002, the PRE-SAFE® safety package represented a decisive development in this direction. Subsequent generations of this system network have been available for some time. At Mercedes-Benz it is a key element of the holistic strategy referred to by the brand since 2005 as its “integrated safety concept.”

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