Mercedes-Benz is the pioneer of automotive safety. No other car manufacturer carries out such intensive research in this field and has brought so many crucial innovations onto the market. Ever since the invention of the motor car in 1886, Mercedes-Benz has been instrumental in the development of active and passive safety, setting one new benchmark after another in the process. Today, accident-free driving ranks as one of the most important objectives that the researchers and developers at Mercedes-Benz are working to fulfil.
Many of the innovations first introduced by Mercedes-Benz have since become industry standards – from the rigid passenger compartment (patented in 1951, first implemented in series production in the 111-series "Fintail" models in 1959), to the ABS anti-lock braking system (introduced in 1978 in the 116-series S-Class) and the airbag (premiered in the 126-series S-Class from 1981), to the ESP® Electronic Stability Program (presented in 1995 in the S-Class Coupé from the 140 model series). These days, such safety systems are standard fare for nearly all manufacturers. This means that, in a way, there is a bit of Mercedes-Benz in every modern-day motor car. And the innovative solutions in every new model the brand brings out show how vehicle safety will continue to be a matter of the highest priority for Mercedes-Benz engineers in future too.
The overriding goal is to continually reduce the number of road traffic deaths and injuries and prevent accidents from happening in the first place. When
Mercedes-Benz's systematic programme of safety research first began, the focus was initially placed on passive safety, meaning protecting the vehicle occupants as best possible in the event of an accident. Later, the safety experts at Mercedes-Benz started to devote their attention increasingly to active safety by developing innovations designed to mitigate the severity of collisions or prevent them from occurring at all – to the benefit of all involved.
Along the road to accident-free driving, Mercedes-Benz became the first car maker in the world to network active and passive safety features with one another. With the anticipatory occupant protection system PRE-SAFE®, the Stuttgart brand opened up another new chapter in the evolution of safety technology. These days, it is the phase prior to an accident especially which offers new safety-enhancing potential, as the more time there is between detection of an impending collision and the actual impact, the more the safety systems are able to increase the protection afforded to occupants.
Mercedes-Benz showcased groundbreaking innovations based on its latest safety findings in the ESF 2009 research vehicle, and clearly illustrated the potential for the future.
Pioneering work for safer cars
Not long after the invention of the motor car, Carl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler get to work on making the vehicles they developed ever safer. The Mercedes 35 hp dating from 1901 continues to serve as an outstanding example of active safety today. Some of its design features can still be found in modern-day vehicles, such as the long wheelbase, the large track width and the low centre of gravity. Another driving safety milestone is reached in 1931 with the 170 model, the first ever production passenger car to combine independent suspension at the front and rear with a hydraulic braking system. And with the double-wishbone front suspension in the Mercedes-Benz 380 in 1933, a standard of wheel suspension technology is introduced that still holds good today, and has increased active safety considerably.
Mercedes-Benz engineers start to take a methodical and analytical approach to vehicle safety long before they have electronic tools to help them. In parallel to this, Mercedes-Benz presses ahead with its fundamental research in order to better understand the processes that occur in a few fractions of a second in an accident. In 1939, a test vehicle is created at Mercedes-Benz with a highly rigid floor assembly including sturdy side impact protection, as well as a three-part
steering column. These design principles are incorporated into series production in 1953 for the new Mercedes-Benz 180 "Ponton".
In the late 1940s, Béla Barényi – an engineer employed at the then Mercedes-Benz AG – formulates the basic principles for the revolutionary concept of a body with crumple zones, i.e. deformable sections at the front and rear, which is then patented in 1952. Barényi is the first to realise that the kinetic energy released in an impact must be dissipated by deformation to protect the occupants effectively. Consequently, he divides the vehicle body into three zones: soft front section, rigid passenger compartment, soft rear section.
Injury-proofed interior has been improving safety since 1959
The Mercedes-Benz 220, 220 S and 220 SE "Fintail" models brought out in 1959 (111 model series) go down in automotive history as the first series-production cars in the world to include integral crumple zones and a high-strength passenger compartment. Today, nearly every new production car in the world is built on this same basis. The first ever "injury-proofed" interior complements the safety body of the "Fintail" models to form an integral safety concept by completely doing away with hard or sharp-edged control elements.
Instead there are recessed door handles, a dashboard which yields on impact, padded window ledges, window cranks, armrests and sun visors, while the steering wheel features a large impact boss. A further component of the safety concept is the wedge-pin door lock with two safety detents that had been patented in 1958. This is designed to prevent the doors from bursting open in a collision, which could result in occupants being thrown out of the vehicle, since seat belts are not commonly used at the time. In the same year, Mercedes-Benz begins its programme of systematic crash testing, which was to provide a vital foundation for the development of safety technology.
Objective since 1966: eliminate personal injury with integral safety
It is back in 1966 when Karl Wilfert, the Director of Body Development at
Mercedes-Benz, calls for the "likelihood of personal injury to be reduced as far as possible". The framework necessary for doing this is provided by a system which classifies and describes the various parameters of vehicle safety. The two umbrella terms that are coined are Active Safety and Passive Safety.
Based on this original definition, active safety encompasses the areas of driving safety, driver-fitness safety and operating safety, while passive safety covers the aspects of exterior and interior safety influenced by design and construction. The Board Member for Development, Hans Scherenberg, sets out the target of not just protecting the passengers, but minimising the risk of injury to other road users too. With a view to protecting other road users, therefore, an all-embracing safety concept should not focus just on the occupants of a Mercedes-Benz, rather it should also benefit the other party involved in an accident.
The two areas of active and passive safety would later be merged to form the basis for the integral safety concept that is applied at Mercedes-Benz today. The list of innovations which are invented, developed and first brought to market by Mercedes-Benz is virtually endless.
In 1967, the safety steering column is introduced throughout the Mercedes-Benz passenger car range. Made of telescopic sections which slide into one another, it collapses according to the force of the impact, avoiding the dangerous lance effect. A large padded boss on the front of the steering wheel and an impact absorber serve to cushion the driver in a frontal collision.
Tradition of safety-related innovations in ever new model brought out
Three-point seat belts together with head restraints provide additional protection for occupants from 1969. In 1971, the enhanced integral safety concept of the new 350 SL heralds the introduction into series production of the crash-protected fuel tank, side windows, tail lights and indicators with low dirt build-up, as well as the four-spoke steering wheel and safety door handles.
The focus of safety development has shifted over the course of the years: whereas passive safety measures are initially at the centre of attention after 1950, the period from the end of the 1970s is marked by a string of assistance systems that come under the heading of active safety. In 1970, Mercedes-Benz first unveils the ABS anti-lock braking system, the further improved second generation of which makes its production debut in 1978 in the 116-series S-Class. The system prevents the wheels from locking up when braking at full power, giving the driver better control over the vehicle so that it is still possible to evade obstacles. This forms the springboard for later developing systems such as the automatic differential lock (ASD), acceleration skid control (ASR) and 4MATIC all-wheel drive as part of the Mercedes-Benz "Active Safety Concept".
Since 1970: Experimental Safety Vehicle as safety pioneer
Despite these varying focal points, the overall notion of vehicle safety as a complex network is something the engineers never lose sight of. This is illustrated by
Mercedes-Benz's involvement in the international programme for the development of Experimental Safety Vehicles (ESV). Five safety conferences which accompany the ESV programme highlight the differences in the participants' approaches: whereas the US founders of the programme are focused solely on technical innovations for boosting passive safety, Mercedes-Benz together with the other European members advocates a step-by-step plan which combines both active and passive safety measures.
This integrative safety philosophy is also clearly evident in the five ESV research vehicles presented by Mercedes-Benz between 1970 and 1974 as part of the programme. The ABS anti-lock braking system fitted on the vehicles is the most important active safety component. Meanwhile, passive safety is improved by
an optimised safety body, a restraint system with head restraints, 3-point inertia-reel seat belts with belt force limiters and belt tensioners, as well as an airbag built into the steering wheel's impact boss. There are also resilient impact absorbers in the bumpers which allow the vehicle to survive impacts at speeds of up to eight kilometres per hour unscathed.
The progressive pace of development allows findings to be quickly transferred to series production, as Board Member Hans Scherenberg stresses in 1971: "Our endeavours in the field of safety have always been designed to allow all results to be implemented in series production as quickly as is technically feasible. Our goal has never been to produce a safety vehicle for just demonstrative purposes; rather we seek to achieve steady progress that serves to benefit the road users on our increasingly crowded roads in the shortest time possible."
In 2009, Mercedes-Benz revives the ESV idea by building a new and highly complex experimental vehicle that gives a preview of what safety development holds in store in the not-too-distant future. The ESF 2009 demonstrates the holistic approach of the Mercedes-Benz safety philosophy: the first priority is to prevent accidents. Should that fail, the aim is to mitigate the consequences.
Systematic safety research since 1959
Mercedes-Benz has been conducting systematic crash tests since 1959. Soon
after first being introduced, they become an intrinsic part of the vehicle development process and start to reproduce real-life collisions with increasing accuracy. Since 1969, the Mercedes-Benz Accident Research unit has furthermore been consistently providing a basis of current data taken from actual road traffic accidents. This results in the offset crash being introduced in 1979 as an internal testing method that is close to reality. Today, it is an established statutory requirement worldwide.
Mercedes-Benz establishes offset crash as realistic test
Mercedes-Benz becomes the first passenger car manufacturer in the world to offer a driver's airbag as well as a belt tensioner for the front passenger when it makes both available in 1981 for the S-Class, which had already been designed based on offset crash findings. In that same year, the Mercedes-Benz Auto 2000 research vehicle demonstrates the state-of-the-art in safety technology. Innovations include integral seats for the driver and front passenger, which have all the seat belt componentry attached directly to the seat, a built-in child restraint system in the rear, as well as pedestrian-friendly bumpers.
On the active safety side, the multi-link independent suspension fitted in the
Mercedes-Benz compact class from 1982 sets new benchmarks and, as a result, a new trend. 1987 sees the debut of the front passenger airbag in the S-Class. Two years later, the new SL Roadster models offer seats with integral seat belts as well as the first ever rollover bar that pops up automatically should the vehicle turn over.
ESP®: another milestone in Mercedes safety development
In 1994, Mercedes-Benz premieres the Electronic Stability Program ESP®, which enters series production the following year in the brand's V12 models. When the vehicle is on the verge of tail-skidding in bends, it initiates corrective braking at individual wheels to counter the danger. The ESP® system is a major milestone for active safety that has been proven to help prevent accidents or lessen the severity of their consequences.
In the summer of 1999, Mercedes-Benz becomes the first car maker in the world to fit all of its passenger car models with the system as standard, making a vital contribution to the improvement of driving safety in the process. ESP® has had a lasting impact on road safety in Germany, as confirmed by numerous independent studies which have since been carried out. An analysis of a representative sample taken from the accident statistics shows that, since the introduction of ESP® as standard, Mercedes-Benz passenger cars have been involved in serious road accidents far more seldom than cars from other manufacturers. The proportion of road accidents involving newly registered Mercedes-Benz passenger cars dropped by over 42 percent between 1998/1999 and 2002/2003, whereas the decline for other brands of passenger car over the same period was only around 13 percent.
Like the anti-lock braking system (ABS) before it, the Electronic Stability Program becomes established as a worldwide safety standard within the space of a few years. It demonstrates once more how Mercedes-Benz, in its role as a safety pioneer, is capable of bringing crucial innovations to market time and time again, which then go on to set the standard for the entire automotive industry.
From 1996, Brake Assist (BAS) helps passenger car drivers with emergency braking. BAS detects the need for maximum braking power from the way in which the driver suddenly steps on the brake pedal, and automatically increases brake pressure up to the ABS cut-in point.
PRE-SAFE®: Mercedes-Benz models with a built-in protective instinct
1997 sees the newly launched A-Class set new standards for passive safety in its class with an array of safety-related innovations including the sandwich-floor body concept. At the same time, sidebags start to be included as standard in all
Mercedes-Benz passenger cars, with the further addition of adaptive front airbags in certain model series. Windowbags make their first appearance in 1998.
Mercedes-Benz sets yet another milestone in 2002 with the fusion of active and passive safety and the introduction of its PRE-SAFE® anticipatory occupant protection system. This multi-award-winning technology, which today forms part of the standard specification in a number of Mercedes-Benz model series, takes its cue from nature: in the same way that creatures react instinctively when danger threatens, PRE-SAFE® triggers measures for the protection of the vehicle's passengers as a precaution. The aim is to prepare both the vehicle and its occupants for the impending collision.
The system reacts with lightning speed to messages received from the Electronic Stability Program (ESP®) and Brake Assist (BAS) sensors. PRE-SAFE® pulls the seat belts taut in an instant and repositions the front passenger seat if necessary, as well as the electrically adjustable rear seats if fitted, in order to secure the occupants in the best possible position for their safety. The sunroof closes automatically too so that the vehicle's structure can provide optimum protection if it rolls over.
Since the advent of the PRE-SAFE® Brake in 2006, Mercedes-Benz passenger cars have been able to brake by themselves in a hazardous situation too. The PRE-SAFE® protective measures are reversible: if the accident is averted, the tensioned seat belts slacken automatically, and the occupants are able to reset the positions of the seats and sunroof.
New electronic safety-enhancing aids
There then follow new control concepts which are designed to help relieve the strain on the driver, so they can devote their full attention to the often complex situation on the road ahead. The Headlamp Assist introduced in 1998 automatically switches the exterior lights on, the rain sensor has been controlling the wiper interval since 1995, the automatic climate control first brought out in 1977 keeps the interior at the desired temperature, the interior mirror and driver's side exterior mirror dim automatically when required, while the nearside exterior mirror alters its position when reversing to give the driver a view of the kerb.
LINGUATRONIC has allowed voice control of the telephone, audio and navigation systems since 1997 – meaning the hands can stay on the steering wheel. The DISTRONIC system launched in 1998 employs a radar sensor and a high-performance computer to keep at a constant distance from the vehicle ahead. Passenger car models have been available since 2003 with the active light function, which gives a better view of bends at night and is extended in 2006 to create the Intelligent Light System.
Intelligent driver assistance systems from Mercedes-Benz
Assistance systems are becoming increasingly important these days as a means of supporting drivers in their complex task. The dozen or so new or improved driver assistance systems that make their debut in 2009 in the current E-Class and S-Class models, for example, play a crucial role in this regard. The unique interaction of state-of-the-art safety technology makes it possible to extend the cars' "senses" and enhance their intelligence. This makes them part of the "thinking" process, capable of seeing, feeling, reacting instinctively and acting autonomously and thereby able to actively come to the driver's aid in critical situations.
Proven technologies like ABS, ESP® and Brake Assist therefore work alongside as many as a dozen new or improved driver assistance systems to help prevent accidents or lessen their impact. These range from Adaptive Highbeam Assist to the ATTENTION ASSIST drowsiness detection system to automatic braking at full power when there is an acute collision risk.
There are two new active assistance systems to further relieve the burden on the driver: the Active Blind Spot Assist alerts the driver to a risk of collision when changing lanes due to the presence of another vehicle in the adjacent line that is hidden in the exterior mirror's blind spot. If the driver ignores the system's warnings and starts to draw dangerously close to the vehicle in the adjacent lane, the Active Blind Spot Assist springs into action, applying the brakes at the wheels on the other side of the vehicle in such a way as to produce a yawing movement that can avert a collision.
Active Lane Keeping Assist is now linked to the ESP® for the first time too. This system kicks into action if the vehicle inadvertently drifts over a solid line to the right or left of its lane. When this happens, the Active Lane Keeping Assist acts via the ESP® system to brake the wheels on the opposite side to prevent the vehicle from crossing the line. At the same time, a display flashes up in the instrument cluster to warn the driver.
LED headlamps with pinpoint road illumination
Development still has a long way to go, however. The potential for the future is clearly illustrated in 2009 by the ESF 2009 Experimental Safety Vehicle based on the S-Class. For an improved view in the dark, there are LED pixel headlamps, which light up the road more effectively and further, at the same time as preventing any other road users detected from being dazzled.
With this adaptive "partial" main beam system, as it is known, the driver can leave the main beams switched on constantly. As soon as the system detects oncoming traffic via its camera, it automatically adjusts the light distribution as appropriate. New reflective strips along the sides furthermore make the vehicle more visible to other road users at night when approaching from the side.
One of the technologies which Mercedes-Benz perceives as holding great promise for the coming years and decades is car-to-car communication, which makes it possible to warn drivers of objects or vehicles before they can see them, because they are hidden by crests in the road, bends or buildings, or when driving in fog.
The size-adaptive airbag adjusts to the seat occupant
Another of the new features in the ESF 2009 is the size-adaptive airbag. This adapts to the individual seat occupant, by using sensors in the seat to register the front passenger's weight and seat position. Based on these parameters, the size-adaptive airbag varies both its volume and its absorption properties, in other words the firmness with which it catches the passenger. In contrast to a conventional front passenger airbag with a capacity of around 120 litres, here the size can be adjusted to any value between 90 and 150 litres. This achieves the best possible coupling between occupants and vehicle in an accident.
In an accident, there are additional hazards inside the vehicle as well. In an unfortunate scenario, the passengers can also collide together and injure each other. Inter-Seat Protection is designed to guard against this: within fractions of a second, a lattice-like airbag support structure extends from between the front seats to keep the driver and front passenger apart.
Mercedes of the future performs all-round check for accident risks
PRE-SAFE 360° heralds a further improvement in passive safety by monitoring the car's surroundings in all directions. This means it also keeps on eye on what's going on behind. Should the system detect the risk of a collision from the rear, it automatically applies the brakes around 600 milliseconds before the point of impact. Applying the brakes to the vehicle when it is already stationary helps to reduce the risk of it being catapulted out of control towards a junction or a pedestrian crossing.
An even more futuristic-sounding concept goes under the name of PRE-SAFE® Structure. This features a sort of "airbed" made of metal, which is designed to offer extra protection in the event of a side impact. The lightweight metal sections are normally folded up to save space and concealed from sight. If they are required, a gas generator builds up an internal pressure of 10 to 20 bar within a few fractions of a second, causing the sections to unfold and produce a highly stable structure. The "braking bag" is more spectacular still. The ESF 2009 experimental vehicle is fitted with such an airbag between the front axle carrier and the underbody panelling. If the system of sensors detects a collision that can no longer be averted, the vehicle reacts by triggering two measures almost simultaneously: PRE-SAFE® automatically applies the wheel brakes at full power, as it is already capable of today in the E-Class, S-Class and CL-Class.
A short time later, the "braking bag" is deployed whose friction coating braces the vehicle against the surface. The vehicle's vertical acceleration increases the downward force and, as a result, the amount of friction too, helping to further decelerate the vehicle before the impact occurs. Compared to a vehicle without braking bag, this has the effect of approximately doubling the braking rate, greatly reducing the impact speed and consequently the collision's severity. The airbag brake effectively acts like an additional crumple zone.
Accident-free driving remains an ambitious goal for the future
The quest for accident-free driving poses a multifaceted and, above all, ongoing challenge: the aim of the engineers will always be to make the next generation of vehicles safer than the last, while also reacting to the evolution of the complex machine that is the motor car and to changes on our roads.
Mercedes safety development milestones
The Mercedes 35 hp sets the mould for the modern-day motor car. The long wheelbase, the large track width and the low centre of gravity give it particularly safe handling characteristics.
For the first time, front wheel brakes are included as standard on a Mercedes for far superior deceleration – starting with the highest-powered model, the 28/95 hp Sport. Before this, brakes had only been customary on the rear wheels and the drive shaft. Four-wheel braking becomes available for all Mercedes passenger car models from summer 1924.
A further driving safety milestone is reached with the 170 model (W 15) as the first series-produced passenger car with independent suspension for all four wheels ("swing axles") and a hydraulic braking system.
Premiere of the double-wishbone independent front suspension in the Mercedes-Benz 380 (W 22). This groundbreaking construction, which performs the tasks of wheel guidance, suspension and damping separately from one another, becomes the standard front suspension concept – not just at Mercedes-Benz, but for numerous manufacturers worldwide.
The first prototype of a passenger car with a highly rigid floor assembly, integral side impact protection and a three-part steering column.
The "Terra Cruiser" prototype developed by Mercedes-Benz engineer Béla Barényi is the first motor car with a safety steering column.
The patented safety conical-pin lock prevents the doors from bursting open in a collision.
Mercedes-Benz files a patent for the world's first safety body with a rigid passenger compartment and defined crumple zones. It enters series production in 1959.
The single-joint swing axle makes its series production debut in the Mercedes-Benz 220 (W 180). This same axle construction is used on the new W 196 Formula 1 racing cars too.
Mercedes-Benz offers lap belts as an option for the front seats in its passenger car models.
A patent is filed for the wedge-pin door lock with two safety detents developed by Mercedes-Benz.
The crumple zone goes into production: the Mercedes-Benz 220, 220 S and 220 SE models (111 series) are the fist series-production cars to have a safety body and an "injury-proofed" interior.
Mercedes-Benz starts conducting systematic crash tests at the Sindelfingen plant, which become an intrinsic part of the vehicle development process and take place outdoors until 1973. The accident researches are able to optimise individual components, such as the steering and restraint systems, far much more quickly and cost effectively using sled tests instead of the elaborate crash tests. The sled is braked by means of large gherkin tins from the factory canteen, which act as a crumple zone. The man who devised this efficient and cost-saving method – Rolf Maier – is nicknamed "Gherkin Maier" by his colleagues.
Diagonal shoulder belts are offered as an optional extra instead of the previous lap belts. All Mercedes-Benz passenger cars include anchorage points for seat belts as standard.
Mercedes-Benz equips the 300 SL Roadster (W 198) with disc brakes all round as standard.
The Mercedes-Benz 230 SL (W 113) becomes the first sports car with safety body.
Mercedes-Benz introduces the hydraulic dual-circuit braking system for all passenger car models.
The safety steering system featuring a telescopic steering column and steering wheel with impact absorber comes as standard on all Mercedes-Benz models. Work starts on the development of the airbag.
The Mercedes-Benz Accident Research unit, which analyses what happens in real-life road accidents, is inaugurated, and development of the belt tensioner begins.
Mercedes-Benz presents the first generation of the anti-lock braking system (ABS) in an experimental version.
The new 350 SL Roadster (107 model series) is unveiled with numerous safety-related innovations on board: the belt buckle of the optional three-point inertia-reel seat belts is mounted on the seat frame for the first time, the fuel tank is placed in a crash-protected position in front of the rear axle, and the four-spoke safety steering wheel with its large impact boss offers the best possible protection for the driver. Side windows and tail lights with low dirt build-up optimise visibility, while the new bow handles without a pushbutton can be easily opened even after an accident, without the doors bursting open first.
On the occasion of the ESV (Enhanced Safety Vehicle) Conference in Sindelfingen, Mercedes-Benz presents experimental vehicles equipped with three-point inertia-reel seat belts, belt tensioners, belt force limiters, as well as airbags for both driver and front passenger.
Mercedes-Benz files a patent for the airbag.
Three-point inertia-reel seat belts and front head restraints come as standard on all Mercedes-Benz passenger cars.
The first ever offset crash tests take place in Sindelfingen.
The safety steering system with corrugated tubing enters production in the 123 model series as a world first.
The 116-series S-Class becomes the first car in the world to offer the second
generation of the anti-lock braking system (ABS). By 1980, it is available for all Mercedes-Benz passenger cars. The offset crash test with 40-percent frontal overlap is defined as an internal testing method that closely reflects reality.
The 126-series S-Class is the world's first motor car to feature a fork-arm structure specifically designed for an offset front impact. The new saloon's front seat belts are height-adjustable. Seat belts are fitted for all outer seats as standard
throughout the Mercedes-Benz passenger car range.
The driver's airbag and the belt tensioner (on the front passenger side) become available for the first time – in the S-Class Saloon and Coupé models (126 series).
The multi-link independent rear suspension makes its debut in the Mercedes-Benz compact class (201 series) and sets new benchmarks for driving safety and comfort.
Mercedes-Benz equips all passenger car models with front seat belt tensioners as standard.Mercedes-Benz introduces the ABS anti-lock braking system as standard in the S-Class (126 series) and SL models (107 series). From 1988 onwards, it forms part of the standard specification on the mid-range 124 model series too.
Mercedes-Benz brings out three electronically controlled drive systems: 4MATIC all-wheel drive (124 series), the ASD automatic differential lock (201, 124 series), as well as ASR acceleration skid control (126 series).
At the IAA Motor Show, Mercedes-Benz presents the first front passenger airbag, which is optionally available for the S-Class (126 series) and, from 1988, the mid-range 124 model series too.
The new SL Roadsters (R 129) make their debut with a belt system integrated into the seats, plus a rollover bar that pops up automatically if the vehicle is on the verge of turning over.
Mercedes-Benz presents an actively controlled suspension system for the first time in the C 112 research vehicle. It enters production in 1999 as Active Body Control in the CL-Class.
The driver's airbag is added to the standard specification list for the S-Class
(140 series), the SL sports car (R 129) and the 500 E (W 124). The V12 models are additionally fitted with a front passenger airbag as standard too.
From October of this year, the driver's airbag and the anti-lock braking system (ABS) become standard on all Mercedes-Benz passenger cars. The front passenger airbag is available as an option for all model series and fitted as standard in the S‑Class. The offset crash into a deformable barrier becomes a standard test for the development of new Mercedes-Benz models.
Mercedes-Benz offers integrated child seats for the rear seat unit for the first time.
Premiere of the Electronic Traction System (ETS) in the six-cylinder S-Class (140 series) and SL-Class (R 129) models.
Mercedes-Benz unveils the ESP® Electronic Stability Program, which enters series production the following year in the V12 models.
World premiere of the xenon headlamp with dynamic headlamp range control in the
E-Class (W 210) and the SL-Class (R 129).
The new E-Class (W 210) comes with integral belt force limiters for the front seats for the first time. Sidebags for the front doors can be specified as an optional
The Electronic Stability Program (ESP®) makes its debut in the S 600 Coupé as a world first, and is soon standard on the S 600 and SL 600 too. It is initially offered as an option for the V8 models.
Brake Assist (BAS) is launched as another world first in the S-Class (140 series), CL-Class (C 140) and SL (R 129), with the remaining Mercedes-Benz model series following in 1997.
The ellipsoid firewall and automatic child seat recognition make their debut in the new SLK Roadster (R 170).
Thanks to its sandwich-floor concept, the compact A-Class (W 168) achieves typical Mercedes standards of occupant safety. Sidebags, belt tensioners and belt force limiters are all included as standard.
The pairing of the electronically controlled 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system and ESP® in the 210-series E-Class marks another milestone in the field of driving safety.
The new M-Class (W 163) is launched with the electronically controlled traction system 4ETS.
Mercedes-Benz equips the A-Class (W 168) as standard with the Electronic Stability Program (ESP®), acceleration skid control (ASR) and Brake Assist. The AIRMATIC air suspension system enters production in combination with the Adaptive Damping System (ADS II) in the new S-Class (220 series).
The 210-series E-Class becomes the first model to be fitted with the newly developed windowbag. The new S-Class (220 series) is the first model from Mercedes-Benz to feature an adaptive front passenger airbag, which deploys in two stages according to the severity of the accident.
The Active Body Control (ABC) suspension celebrates its world premiere in the
CL-Class (C 215).
All Mercedes-Benz passenger cars (with the exception of the SLK) are equipped with ESP® as standard. The SLK (R 170) follows suit at the start of 2000.
Mercedes-Benz equips the new C-Class (203 series) as standard with adaptive
airbags on the driver and front passenger side as well as windowbags and sidebags.
A newly developed head/thorax sidebag makes its world debut in the SL-Class
The AIRMATIC DC (Dual Control) air suspension system is launched in the new
211-series E-Class. 4MATIC permanent all-wheel drive also becomes available for the C-Class (203 series) as well as the S-Class (220 series) for the first time.
The new E-Class (211 series) features up-front sensors as well as automatic classification of the front passenger's weight, allowing control of the restraint
systems to be adapted even more to the specific situation. Apart from adaptive front airbags, the front seats are fitted with two-stage belt force limiters too. For the first time, the standard specification also includes belt tensioners and belt force limiters in the rear.
The revolutionary new anticipatory occupant protection system PRE-SAFE® is premiered in the 220-series S-Class. For this first time, the vehicle's occupants can be prepared for a possible collision as a precaution. PRE-SAFE® marks the start of a new era of passenger car safety development at Mercedes-Benz.
Mercedes-Benz introduces the active light function in the E-Class (211 series), which improves illumination of the road in bends by up to 90 percent with dipped beam on.
Mercedes-Benz presents a series of new active safety systems in the new S-Class (221 series). These include the new BAS PLUS Brake Assist system, which tracks vehicles ahead using radar. Mercedes-Benz furthermore offers the S-Class with Night View Assist, which shows an infrared night image of the area in front of the vehicle in the instrument cluster display. Meanwhile, the adaptive brake lights alert traffic behind to emergency braking even more clearly by flashing quickly.
The NECK-PRO head restraints are yet another important contribution to occupant safety from Mercedes-Benz. The crash-responsive head restraints are included as standard in the C-Class (203 series), the CLK (209 series), the CLS (C 219), as well as the E-Class (211 series).
The 211-series E-Class is the first car in the world to be offered with the Intelligent Light System. The system includes five different lighting functions designed specifically for typical driving situations and weather conditions.
Mercedes-Benz launches the PRE-SAFE® Brake with autonomous partial braking in the S-Class (221 series) and the new CL-Class (C 216). This system, the only one of its kind in the world, brakes the vehicle automatically prior to an impending rear-end collision. State-of-the-art radar technology is employed to monitor the situation in front of the car.
Mercedes-Benz further extends its lead in the field of safety with the new E-Class (212 series). Around a dozen new or improved driver assistance systems are on hand to help prevent traffic accidents or reduce the severity of the impact. They include ATTENTION ASSIST, which analyses over 70 different parameters throughout the journey to detect when drivers are becoming drowsy and alert them before they fall into a dangerous microsleep. In addition to this, the DISTRONIC PLUS proximity control system and the PRE-SAFE® Brake with autonomous emergency braking can be added as optional extras.
Mercedes-Benz showcases groundbreaking innovations derived from its latest safety findings in the ESF 2009 research vehicle based on the S-Class, and clearly illustrates the potential for the future. The highlights aboard the ESF 2009 include PRE-SAFE® Structure – metal sections which inflate with split-second speed to give more stability to structural components – as well as the "braking bag" as it is known. This airbag housed within the vehicle floor is deployed shortly before a collision once it is deemed to be unavoidable, and acts as an additional brake by bracing the vehicle against the road surface with its friction coating.
PRE-SAFE® Pulse is able to reduce the strain on the occupants' torsos by around
a third. It does so by moving them towards the centre of the vehicle by up to 50 millimetres when a collision is imminent. Interactive Vehicle Communication enables the ESF 2009 to exchange warnings of bad weather or obstacles in the road with other vehicles, while the Spotlight function is able to pinpoint potential danger spots ahead.
2010World premiere for two new active driver assistance systems in the CL-Class
(C 216) and S-Class (221 series). The radar-based Active Blind Spot Assist warns the driver when changing lanes if another vehicle is detected in the exterior mirror's blind spot. If the driver ignores the warnings, the ESP® system attempts to avert a collision with the adjacent vehicle by means of corrective braking.
With the Active Lane Keeping Assist, a camera attached to the windscreen detects solid lane markings, allowing the system to warn the driver when the vehicle is drifting unintentionally out of its lane. Should the driver fail to react, the system will apply the brakes at one or more wheels so as to prevent the vehicle from veering out of its lane.