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65 years ago, the recruitment of the inventive genius Béla Barényi saw
the start of systematic passenger car safety development at
Mercedes-Benz. The crumple zone, safety steering column, steering wheel
impact plate and side impact protection are examples of the pioneering
inventions for which this first Mercedes safety engineer was
responsible. To this day they provide the very basis for modern
automobile technology, and show how closely the development of vehicle
safety is linked to the history of Mercedes-Benz. With innovations such
as the sandwich concept of the A-Class or the preventive protection
system PRE-SAFE, the Stuttgart automobile brand continues to be the
pacemaker in this field.
the department for safety development, which was formed on August 1,
1939, only consisted of four employees. It was headed by the
Austrian-born engineer Béla Barényi (1907–1997), who had previously
been employed by the "Society for Technical Progress" in
Berlin and submitted more than 150 patent applications for automobile
and vehicle designs during this time.
cradle of passenger car safety technology was a wooden hut measuring
around 100 square metres at the edge of the Mercedes plant in
Sindelfingen. Here Barényi and his personnel devoted themselves to
improving occupant protection. Just one year after taking up his post,
this impassioned engineer attracted attention with his first prototype
featuring an "accident-resistant" floor assembly, rigid
passenger cell and special side protection. Within a short time this
prototype was followed by other trailblazing inventions. "To this
day vehicle safety is based on the foundations that Béla Barényi
laid", says Dr Rodolfo Schöneburg, Head of Safety/Vehicle
Functions at the Mercedes-Benz Technology Center.
Béla Barényi (1907–1997)
Barényi developed the principle of the crumple zone during the 1940s;
it was patented in August 1952 and first entered series production in
1959, in the Mercedes-Benz 220 (W 111). By the time he went into
retirement at the end of 1972 this pioneer in passenger car safety had
submitted patent applications for more than 2500 inventions.
subsequent years Mercedes engineers have continued to set standards in
the field of vehicle safety with trailblazing new developments such as
belt tensioners, the airbag, the anti-lock braking system (ABS), Brake
Assist and the Electronic Stability Program (ESP®). Nowadays these
systems are standard equipment in all passenger cars bearing the
Mercedes star, as well as those of numerous competitors.
specialists also showed great creativity and expertise with the patented
sandwich concept of the A-Class in 1997. It was on this basis that a
compact car with the occupant safety typical of a Mercedes was able to
be designed for the first time. For the new A-Class to be launched in
autumn 2004, Mercedes-Benz has developed the sandwich concept even
further and combined it with the
has been conducting crash tests regularly in Sindelfingen, which
have served as the launch pad for pioneering work in the field
of passenger car safety. Originally, hot-water rockets were used
to propel the test cars.
latest protection systems.
new era in passenger car safety began with another Mercedes-Benz
development in 2002, the preventive occupant protection system PRE-SAFE,
which is standard equipment in the S-Class and will also become
available for other Mercedes models in future. PRE-SAFE is able to
recognise an impending accident in advance and immediately goes into
action to prepare both the occupants and the car for an imminent
collision, for example by pre-tensioning the seat belts as a precaution.
65 years after the formation of the first department for passenger car
safety, innovations such as this underline the leading position of
Mercedes-Benz in this important area of automobile technology.
1997, the groundbreaking sandwich concept featured in the
A-Class made it possible to combine compact dimensions with
Mercedes’ renowned safety standards for the first time.
DaimlerChrysler, July 27, 2004.