Mercedes-Benz illustrates the innovative safety systems of the Experimental Safety Vehicle ESF 2009 with female assistants who act as latter-day guardian angels.
A café-owner and amateur actress – in future Marika Müller will also be able to add "guardian angel" when asked about her profession and hobbies. This is because the 42 year-old was the model for the photos of the assistants with which the many safety innovations of the ESF 2009 are explained. "The brief was very clear: we were looking for a Lena Odenthal without curly hair", photographer Harry Ruckaberle remembers. "We wanted a woman as a model who had a certain masculine touch like the criminal investigator in the 'Tatort' TV series, so that she could credibly fill the role of a guardian angel."
Good detective work: Müller has frequently been taken for the Odenthal actress Folkerts. And she even drives a Mercedes: an old Tailfin, by chance the very same model that stands opposite the ESF2009 on one of the photos to illustrate the progress made in the safety sector. 50 years ago, according to the photo story, five assistants protected the occupants of the W111 – in this case the young men stood for pioneering Mercedes achievements like the rigid safety passenger cell with energy-absorbing crumple zones at the front and rear, a steering wheel with a padded boss and elimination of sharp edges in the interior, three-point seat belts, conical-pin door locks with two safety catches and disc brakes. Today there are no less than 29 assistants for the ESF 2009 who help to prevent accidents and mitigate their effects.
Not only has equal opportunity become the norm in the 'assistant' sector – the outfit has also changed. Instead of formal evening clothes, today's guardian angel wears a futuristic, silvery combination of a blouson and slacks. "We wanted the outfit to look modern and a little space-like", says photographer Ruckaberle. "What's more, the silver colour goes well with the ESF2009 and has something future-oriented about it." With a silvery shimmer to the skin, the make-up reflects the colouring of the clothing. All in all, the guardian angels appear "as if from another world" (Ruckaberle) – a fitting accompaniment to the discipline of Real Life Safety for tomorrow…
The major innovations are clearly illustrated by dramatic individual photos featuring the appropriate assistant. In the case of PRE-SAFE Pulse, for example, the guardian angel grabs the shoulders of the driver from the rear seat and moves him out of the danger zone when a side collision is imminent – in reality this is done by the inflatable side bolster of the seat. The Spotlight function of the LED headlamps is illustrated with an assistant holding a torch, with which she lights up a pedestrian emerging from the darkness of the roadside. And the warning function of the Interactive Vehicle Communication system is symbolised by a guardian angel which obtains information via a headset and warns the driver by means of a graphic display.
The aim of these unusual photos is to explain the sometimes complex technical interaction between the vehicle functions clearly and rapidly even to viewers with very little technical knowledge.
The photos were taken at the DEBEOS studios in Sindelfingen, using a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III. The lens was a Canon Zoom 24mm – 70mm. With an aperture between F 20 and F 22, the exposure time was between 1/13 of a second (PRE‑SAFEPulse) and ten seconds (Spotlight). The images were processed on a Macintosh with Adobe Photoshop CS4.