Archive for August 2008

Mercedes-Benz-Blog TRIVIA: Patent No. DBP 854.157, life-saver of thousands


Stuttgart, Germany, Jul 19, 2002

* The mastermind: Béla Barényi and the invention of the crumple zone.

* Rigid passenger cell, interior designed so as to reduce injury hazards in an accident: Mercedes-Benz 220, 220 S, 220 SE model year 1959

* "Terracruiser": Béla Barényi’s portion to the company and other milestones

On January 23, 1951, Daimler-Benz AG applied for patent number DBP 854.157, using the unadorned description of "Motor vehicles especially for the transportation of people". Behind this was concealed no less than the invention of the crumple zone. A patent which in the following decades revolutionised the entire automotive industry and became the decisive factor in "passive safety". In more recent times, it has even been applied in railway locomotive and car design.

The ingenious mastermind of the idea was Béla Barényi for whom the maxim of the time – "a safe car must not yield but be stable" – was completely inappropriate. He was the first to discover that in a collision, kinetic energy must be absorbed through deformation in order for the occupants to be protected. He logically split the car body into three "boxes": a soft front section, a rigid passenger cell and a soft rear section. The patent was granted on August 28, 1952.

Rigid passenger cell, interior designed so as to reduce injury hazards in an accident

On a global scale, Barényi's safety bodywork made its debut in production cars in the first six-cylinder Mercedes-Benz 220, 220 S and 220 SE models of 1959, their most striking feature being distinctive tail fins. Developments under the engine hood were equally revolutionary: the steering gear moved far to the rear and the auxiliary units were arranged in such a way so as not to form blocks with each other in the event of a collision, but rather to slip past one another, permitting more effective crumpling of the bodywork. Inside this Mercedes, the most significant improvement was only to be detected after giving it a second look: for the first time ever, the interior was completely redesigned so as to reduce the injury hazard in an accident.

Hard or sharp-edged controls were replaced by yielding, rounded or recessed units, combined with recessed door handles, a dashboard which yielded on impact, padded window ledges, window winders, armrests and sun visors and a steering wheel that featured a large padded boss. Under heavy impact, the rear-view mirror was released from its bracket. In 1961, anchorage points for seat belts were fitted as standard in the "tail fin". Lap belts were available from 1957, and the first diagonal shoulder belts appeared in 1962. Round-shoulder tyres also made their debut on this car.

"Terracruiser": Béla Barényi’s portion to the company and other milestones

In October 1948, engineer and inventor Béla Barényi signed his new employment contract with Daimler-Benz AG, where he had worked previously between 1939 and 1946. He contributed his concept for a "car of the future for the two-to-three litre class", the "Terracruiser" as he called it, which had been in development for several years.

Striking at first glance on this design was the car's body, which was split into three sections, giving it a front end, a passenger compartment and a tail. The two outer sections were strictly separated by the passenger cell which itself was flexibly mounted in a "cradle position". This mounting was to absorb vibrations as well as offer protection in the event of a collision. One other thing: to protect the driver as effectively as possible in a lateral crash, the driver’s seat, including all instruments and controls, was arranged centrally in a complex "bridge". The Terracruiser was designed as a three-box body with outstanding aerodynamic efficiency.

Barényi developed a huge range of trailblazing safety elements alongside the Terracruiser. These include such essentials as the safety steering column, the steering wheel impact absorber, the "disappearing windscreen wiper" and, highly important for interior safety, the protective side molding. His modular design principle, which he developed so early on, has become relevant only recently. By the end of his professional career, the restless Béla Barényi was able to call 2,500 patents his own.

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Mercedes-Benz-Blog TRIVIA: Béla Barényi: 100th anniversary of the pioneer of passive safety


Stuttgart, Germany, Mar 01, 2007

Béla Barényi - the pioneer of passive safety [PART 1]

* Béla Barényi admitted to the European Automotive Hall of Fame

* The engineer whose inventions revolutionized automobile passive safety

* Granted more than 2500 patents for his inventions

On March 6, 2007, Béla Barényi, the pioneer in passive safety development, will be admitted to the European Hall of Fame in Geneva. He would have been 100 years old on May 1.

Béla Barényi was the precursor of passive safety in automotive development. His patents, including the rigid passenger cell with crumple zones and the safety steering system, have had a lasting impact on modern automotive design. With over 2,500 patents to his name, Béla Barényi was one of the most creative and most productive automotive developers. The latest evolutionary milestone in a string of epoch-making developments for enhanced automotive safety in the history of Mercedes-Benz is PRO-SAFE™, a comprehensive safety philosophy representing the state of the art.

Barényi, born on March 1, 1907, was interested in cars right from his childhood days. This passion became a career, and later a vocation. As soon as he had completed his studies he started attracting attention with innovations for increased passive safety in automobiles. The idea quickly formed in his mind of dividing the structure of a motor vehicle into sections, so that the energy from a collision would be absorbed, protecting the occupants from the full effects of the impact. In 1937 he applied for a patent for a “motor vehicle with body divided into three parts,” which he then progressively refined over the following years.

In 1939 Barényi joined Daimler-Benz AG, where he was given considerable freedom to pursue his ideas. His first project was a new type of platform frame for the Mercedes-Benz 170 V convertible (model series W 136), providing greater protection for the vehicle occupants in the event of a lateral impact. But it was only many years later that the concept was implemented at series production level, in the W 120 “Ponton,” or three-box body model series, introduced in 1953.

The patent application for a passenger car body structure with rigid passenger compartment and crumple zones was filed in 1951, and the first vehicle constructed according to this patent was the Mercedes-Benz model series W 111 of 1959. In an accident, the front and rear frame structures are deliberately designed to deform and absorb the energy from the collision, leaving the passengers sitting in a strong, rigid cage structure.

The W 111 model series also saw the debut of another major Barényi innovation, subsequently incorporated in all Mercedes-Benz vehicles: the safety steering-wheel. The structure, based on one of the inventor’s very early ideas, is based on an impact plate with a large surface area and a steering column with a plastically deformable element between the impact absorber and the actual steering column. This forestalls the “lance effect” of the steering column projected towards the driver in a frontal collision. This was followed a few years later with the safety steering shaft. The complete safety steering system finally made its debut in the W 123 model series in 1976. Other developments ultimately based on Barényi's work included the recessed windshield wipers in the W 126 model series, and strong roof structures (as in the “Pagoda” car, model series W 113).

The theory of passive safety

Béla Barényi’s contribution to passive safety technology was not limited to practical innovations. He also formulated the technical concepts that still underpin automotive safety engineering today. He initially took up the concepts of “active safety” and “passive safety” as used by Luigi Locati, and extended their scope to include the area of “preventive safety.” Within these general concepts he then addressed specific aspects such as driving safety, psychological safety, external safety and internal safety.

And in 1966, together with Mercedes-Benz development manager Hans Scherenberg, Barényi formulated the distinction between active and passive safety that is still applied today. According to this definition, active safety describes aspects such as driving, psychological and operating safety, i.e. the safe driving behaviors that prevent accidents. The passive safety of a vehicle, subdivided into internal and external safety, denotes measures to protect the vehicle occupants and other road users from the effects of an accident.

Mercedes-Benz is still operating on the basis of Barényi’s theoretical and practical advances. Current solutions combine elements of active and passive safety under the overarching concept of integrated safety, and the PRO-SAFE™ safety philosophy is an outstanding result of this ongoing development and enhancement process.

Béla Barényi's life [PART 2]

As his name suggests, Béla Viktor Karl Barényi, born on March 1, 1907 at Hirtenberg near Vienna, was a product of the dual monarchy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His parents were Eugen Barényi, a military officer, and his wife Maria, daughter of the industrialist Fridolin Keller. The young Béla was raised in an upper-class home with four siblings. While cars were not widely used for private transport purposes before the First World War, the automobile was part of the young boy’s environment, since his grandfather owned a luxury Austro-Daimler.

But this cosseted existence was destroyed by the First World War. The boy’s father died at the front in 1917, and the years after 1918 saw the collapse of his grandfather’s business empire. This affected the situation of his widowed daughter, Béla’s mother, and all his grandchildren. Before the war the Kellers had been one of the richest families in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but in 1927 Béla had to seek state support for one of his patents. The Vienna municipal authorities accordingly issued him with a “certificate of indigence”.

The young Barényi became interested in improving the passive safety of motor vehicles at a very early stage. Even though this term did not exist at the time, he recognized the potential hazards from vehicle components, e.g. a pointed steering wheel hub. So on a home-made racing sleigh he fitted a steering wheel with a padded hub, displaying some of the features of the safety steering wheel he would later develop.

Barényi was fascinated by engineering achievements even as a child. This was partly attributable to his grandfather’s factories, but he was also growing up in an age of great enthusiasm for technology. In his adolescent years he decided to turn his hobby into a career, commencing the mechanical engineering course at the Vienna College of Technology in 1924. For his graduation assignment in 1926 he designed a six-cylinder engine developing 50 hp (37 kW) at 3600 rpm. He was awarded a degree with distinction on graduating.

While still a student, Barényi had been working on the concept of a modern automobile with a central tubular frame and air-cooled horizontally-opposed engine. This “people’s car of the future” (“Volkswagen” in German) even featured on the cover of the “Motor-Kritik” magazine in 1934. However, the visionary design, for which he produced the plans between 1925 and 1931, never made it through to the production stage.

After completing his degree, in 1928 Barényi took up a position as designer at Steyr, where he became acquainted with Karl Wilfert, who was the same age. In 1929 Wilfert left to become manager of the body repair department of the Mercedes-Benz branch in Vienna, and in that same year was transferred to the Mercedes-Benz research department at Sindelfingen, as assistant to chief designer Hans Nibel. This contact would prove crucial for Barényi’s career.

After his years at Steyr, the young engineer first worked for Österreichische Automobil-Fabrik AG (formerly Austro-Fiat), and then, after a brief period of unemployment, moved in 1934 to a position at the Adler plant in Frankfurt am Main. In the same year he was hired by the Technical Progress Society (Gesellschaft für technischen Fortschritt, or GETEFO), where, among other assignments, he was part of a team developing a silent block for engine bearings. In October 1935, GETEFO sent their young employee to Paris, where he transferred to the Société de Progrès Technique (SOPROTEC) in 1936. It was in Paris that he met his future wife, Maria Kilian, and he also gained his driver’s license at this time, while working on a SOPROTEC contract for Norton, the British motorcycle manufacturer.

The idea for a cell-based vehicle design

In 1937 Barényi moved back to Berlin, where he worked on his idea of a “cell-based” vehicle design, comprising sections that would react differently to mechanical stress: the structure would be rigid in the middle, but plastically deformable at the front and rear. This is already the basis of the car body with safety cell and crumple zone, completely contrary to the standard approach at the time, which aimed for a body of uniform rigidity. He filed a patent for this “motor vehicle with body divided into three sections” as early as January 1937, and additions and further refinements followed over the following years.

But which automobile maker should he approach to implement these visionary new inventions? There was no doubt in Barényi’s mind: he would take the idea to Mercedes-Benz. He applied for a position in Stuttgart in 1938. Initially he was rejected by Daimler-Benz AG, but in 1939 his former colleague Karl Wilfert helped to arrange a meeting with one of the directors, Wilhelm Haspel, subsequently Chairman of the Board of Management.

The 32-year-old engineer confidently presented his visions: “In the cars of the future, the axles, body, frame and steering are going to be different from what they are now,” he told the Mercedes director sitting opposite. As well as being faster, he said, automobiles would above all have to be safer. Wilhelm Haspel was convinced by the unusual ideas of the young lateral thinker, and hired him. He was given his own workshop at Sindelfingen, where he was able to research and build the future of the automobile, largely independently of the development work being conducted for current vehicles. This permanent appointment put him on a secure financial footing, and in 1940 he married Maria Kilian.

From his very first project, it was quite clear that the young engineer’s appointment marked the beginning of the passive safety era at Mercedes-Benz: He developed a new platform frame for the Mercedes-Benz 170 V convertible (model series W 136). The new floor assembly was less subject to vibration than the X-type oval frame then used in series production vehicles, and also provided better protection for the occupants in the event of a lateral impact. The design was patented in 1941, but never went into production.

Terracruiser and Concadoro

The effects of a hip disease in childhood meant that Barényi was never drafted for military service. He did join the NSDAP in Austria as a young man, however, and was therefore dismissed from Daimler-Benz after the war, under the regulations imposed by the Allies. He was initially assigned to a job as a street sweeper, but then worked at home as a self-employed engineer, developing vehicle components, and also toys and household appliances.

In 1948 Barényi actually registered a commercial engineering business, but in October that year he was again employed by Mercedes-Benz, and returned to Sindelfingen. With him he brought two visionary designs, produced mainly in 1945 and 1946: the “Terracruiser” and “Concadoro”. These combined his visions of passive safety with revolutionary new body designs. The six-seater Terracruiser had a very rigid passenger cell in the middle, elastically connected to plastically deformable crash cells at the front and rear, designed to absorb kinetic energy in the event of an accident. This was the first realization of Barényi’s idea of a non-deformable safety cell with crumple zones. Another measure to improve passenger safety was the centrally placed driver’s seat.

The design of the three-seater Concadoro had similar features. The driver was again placed safely in the middle, an idea taken up many years later by Mercedes-Benz in the F 100 research vehicle (1991). The bodywork of the Concadoro was a three-part cell structure, with a pivoting cockpit over the single row of seats. The design already featured a safety steering column with an impact plate, and the windshield wipers retracted into recesses when not in use. The engineering details of this design in particular anticipated development innovations in Mercedes-Benz models many years into the future.

Safety cell and crumple zone in series production

Barényi urged his employers to implement his ideas in production vehicles. Accordingly, the W 120 model (“Ponton”) of 1953 was built with a floor structure offering a high level of protection against lateral impacts. Barényi had finally succeeded in getting his platform frame design into production.

At this time he was also working on developing his visionary ideas into a safety cell for passenger cars to the stage of readiness for serial production. The first step in this process was a patent application for a “motor vehicle, in particular for the transport of persons” filed in 1951 and granted in January 1952. This patent, No. 854157, was for nothing less than a production-ready car body with a rigid passenger cell and crumple zones. The first Mercedes-Benz vehicle with a body based on the patent was the W 111 model series of 1959. Barényi achieved the required variation in plastic characteristics at different points of the body structure mainly through the design of the longitudinal members. Linear members in the middle section the car combined with the panel structures to create a stable safety cell, as opposed to the curved members at the front and rear. In the event of an accident, these curved members would deform, thereby absorbing some of the collision energy and protecting the occupants from the full effect of the impact. And so the Mercedes-Benz “fintail” model becomes the first passenger car with a modern-style safety body.

While he was working on this model, Barényi continued to rise through the ranks within the company. In 1953 he was transferred to the Development department, and in 1955 he was appointed head of the new Advance Development department for the then Daimler-Benz AG. In this role he was again given plenty of freedom to continue working on his passive safety designs for Mercedes-Benz automobiles. He and his team often worked on the basis of the new concept designs developed in the Research department, headed by Rudolf Uhlenhaut.

Safety steering system

The safety body for the W 111 “fintail” car was not his only development contribution to that model series, since the safety steering wheel also made its debut in the vehicle. The combination of these innovations made the “fintail” car a true milestone in the story of passive safety. Another feature was the interior design eliminating all dangerous edges.

The safety steering wheel design, patented in 1954, incorporated a steering wheel with a large impact plate and a steering column with a plastically deformable element between the “impact cup” and the actual steering column. These impact-absorbing components were designed to protect the driver in an accident. Barényi realized that the rigid steering column structures then in use, with a solid hub without any form of cushion or padding, regularly caused severe injuries through the “lance effect.” This situation occurs in a frontal impact, when the steering column is projected towards the driver. The further the steering is placed to the front, the greater is the risk.

Barényi took the first step towards reducing the hazard represented by the steering system as early as 1947, with a steering wheel featuring a deformable “impact absorber,” designed to yield under stress. Then in 1959 he divided the steering column into sections, which was a major advance towards the steering systems in use today. But the designer was not fully convinced by the merits of a telescopic steering shaft on its own. While such a structure might collapse in an ideal frontal impact scenario, it would rapidly lose its flexibility on a lateral impact.

So as an alternative, he invented a “safety steering shaft for motor vehicles,” patented in 1963. This design featured a non-rotatable tubular shaft with low buckling resistance as the link between the steering column components. In the event of an accident, this component was designed to yield in several directions, thereby preventing the projection of the steering column into the passenger compartment like some sort of deadly lance. The complete safety steering system was first used in 1976, in the W 123 model series.

2,500 patents

Béla Barényi received more than 2,500 patents for his inventions, most of which related to automotive innovations and enhancements. It often took several years for his outstanding designs to get to the production stage. For example, he developed a recessed windshield wiper design in 1951, to protect pedestrians from injury in a car accident, but the system only came into use in 1979, in the W 126 S-Class.

On the other hand, the extremely strong, stable roof structure he developed for a test car for the Mercury-Benz W 111 model series (the “fintail”), was implemented without delay, as the hardtop version of the new Mercedes-Benz SL 230 (model series W 113). The characteristic roof combines outstanding strength with attractive esthetics, and led to this Mercedes-Benz sports car becoming known as the “pagoda” model.

Along with his commitment to passive safety, Barényi also developed other pioneering automobile design concepts such as the Mercedes-Benz large touring car camper, and the K 55 compact. As a dedicated camper himself, he planned add-on tent structures for Mercedes-Benz sedan cars, and tested his prototypes on trips as far away as Italy. And since he was also an opera connoisseur, he and his wife took the opportunity to buy a plot of land at Terracina, for use as a private camping site.
Barényi’s inventions from his time at Mercedes-Benz were recognized internationally for the great achievements they were, but during the 1950s he had nothing but problems from the design he produced during his student days. His plan for the “people’s car of the future”, produced at the end of the 1920s, anticipated numerous features that Ferdinand Porsche subsequently introduced in his Volkswagen (or “people’s car”). Yet in 1951, when he sought recognition as the originator of the Volkswagen concept, this claim was repudiated by many publications, and he was even accused of plagiarism! To protect his reputation, Barényi brought a legal action against his detractors. The issue was eventually settled out of court.

Honors received [PART 3]

After his retirement in 1972, and particularly after the death of his wife in 1980, Barényi devoted himself to building up his personal archives. During this time he received numerous awards for his life’s work as the inventor and pioneer of passive safety (and indeed he had already received the Rudolf Diesel medal from the German Inventors’ Association in 1967).

In 1981 he was awarded the Aachen and Munich Prize for technology and the applied sciences, and in 1986 the Deutsche Museum in Munich honored him with a special exhibition entitled “Barényi – and his design concept of 1925 for the people’s car [Volkswagen] of the future.” This was followed by another Deutsche Museum exhibition the following year, on the occasion of his 80th birthday, entitled “Béla Barényi, automotive pioneer.” And in 1987 he received the Badge of Honor of the city of Sindelfingen and the freedom of the town of Terracina. His portrait was placed in the Inventors’ Gallery at the German Patent Office in Munich, and the Museum of Technology in Vienna devoted several display cases to his achievements – a fitting gesture of recognition from the country of his birth. He was also appointed as an emeritus professor in Austria in 1989, and received the city of Baden’s Culture Prize for outstanding scientific achievements. In 1991 he even became the main character in a Mercedes-Benz publicity film on automotive safety.

The international significance of his developments was highlighted in 1994 by his induction into the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, USA. This puts him alongside automobile pioneers like Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz. Béla Barényi received the Federal German Cross of Merit [Bundesverdienstkreuz] in 1995, and died in Böblingen on May 30, 1997, at the age of 90.

The man who pioneered passive safety is commemorated by plaques in Germany, Austria and Italy, and particularly by the Béla Barényi Prize, introduced in 2005. This prize is awarded by Bosch and the Austrian Vintage Motor Car Association for special achievements in working for the preservation of the automotive heritage.

Copyright © 2008, Mercedes-Benz-Blog. All rights reserved.

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Mercedes-Benz-Blog TRIVIA: May 1995: ESP makes its debut in the Mercedes-Benz S 600 coupe


Stuttgart, Germany, Apr 08, 2005

* Milestone in active handling safety

* Risk of skidding significantly reduced in all situations

* ESP is today standard equipment on all Mercedes-Benz passenger cars

Ten years ago, a milestone in active handling safety was incorporated in the large-scale production of the Mercedes-Benz S 600 coupe: the Electronic Stability Program, ESP. ESP reduces the risk of skidding during cornering and keeps the car on course even under extremely difficult conditions such as black ice or wet roads. The system today forms part of the standard equipment of all Mercedes-Benz passenger cars.

“If all cars were equipped with the Stability Program, more than 20,000 serious traffic accidents with over 27,000 accident victims could be prevented in Germany every year,” says Dr. Thomas Weber, member of the DaimlerChrysler Board of Management with responsibility for Research and Technology and head of Development within the Mercedes Car Group. According to a representative random analysis of the latest accident statistics, Mercedes-Benz passenger cars have been involved in serious accidents much less frequently than cars of other brands ever since ESP was incorporated in large-scale production. While in 1998/1999, the share of newly registered Mercedes-Benz models in the total number of cars involved in accidents was 20.7 percent on average, this figure had declined by more than 42 percent by 2002/2003 thanks to ESP. By contrast, the proportion of cars from other brands in the number of cars involved in accidents declined by just 13 percent. Weber: “Alongside the seat belt, airbag and ABS, ESP is by far the most significant safety system of modern passenger cars.”

ESP improves handling safety by selectively decelerating individual wheels, thereby counteracting the car’s tendency to skid near the critical limits and retaining the driver’s control of the car. Oversteering on corners is corrected by the deceleration of the outer front wheel, understeering by the deceleration of the inner rear wheel. In addition, ESP is capable of throttling engine output with the aim of reducing the car’s road speed.

The history of ESP

Arjeplog, northern Sweden, March 1994: On the frozen Lake Hornovan, two Mercedes-Benz test cars drive lap after lap. While one of them remains dead on course in completing the circular course, the driver of the second car clearly has problems in staying on course. Time and again, the rear of his car breaks away on the black ice, forcing him to countersteer and accelerate anew. Standing at the edge of the track, journalists from all over the world watch the tests, witnessing the world premiere of a milestone in automotive engineering, one that has jointly been developed by Mercedes-Benz and Robert Bosch GmbH. The test car that remains on course is equipped with the active handling safety system ESP. Less than one year after the press presentation in Arjeplog, this ground-breaking new system is incorporated in large-scale production at Mercedes-Benz: The S 600 coupe (C 140) is the world’s first car to feature this system, followed a few months later by the S-Class sedan (W 140) and the SL roadster (R 129).

First patent as early as 1959

As early as 1959, Professor Fritz Nallinger, Chief Engineer and a member of the Board of Management of Daimler-Benz AG, filed a patent for a “control device” that was to prevent the spinning of the driven wheels through engine, transmission or brake intervention. His idea was good but remained theory for a long time to come because the relevant prerequisites – sensors and control units capable of intervening with a stabilizing effect in split seconds – simply did not exist. It was not before the advent of microelectronics that progress became possible. Microelectronics proved its suitability for everyday use in the anti-lock braking system (ABS) which made its debut in the S-Class (W 116) in 1978. At the same time, the ABS created the foundation for the development of additional systems. It served as the basis for acceleration skid control (ASR, production start in 1981), which controls the longitudinal forces between tires and road surface not only during braking but also, and for the first time, during acceleration, acting on both the brakes and the engine. This was followed by the automatic locking differential (ASD, 1985) and the innovative permanent four-wheel drive 4MATIC (1985). A common feature of all these systems is the recording and limiting of wheel slip by means of advanced microelectronics and hydraulics with the aim of improving the so-called longitudinal dynamics of the car.

Handling safety under all conditions

But the Mercedes-Benz engineers were still not satisfied. Their next goal was to improve handling safety under all conditions, i.e. also during cornering, in evasive maneuvers or in other transverse dynamic vehicle movements with a high risk of skidding. They therefore launched another ambitious development project. Under the working title “transverse acceleration control”, the engineers investigated technical means of identifying skidding movements of a passenger car and reducing them by means of selectively controlling running gear, engine and transmission. After extensive computer simulations and preliminary investigations, the first tests with such a system were staged in 1987, and in subsequent years, thousands of test kilometers were driven. At the same time, the system proved its suitability for everyday use in the driving simulator in Berlin, where the Mercedes-Benz engineers sent 80 male and female drivers onto a trip along an imaginary country road at a speed of 100 km/h, incorporating treacherous black-ice traps with tire-to-road adhesion reduced by over 70 percent on four corners. The result of the tests: without ESP, 78 percent of the drivers had no chance of keeping the car safely on course and skidded off the road up to three times in succession. With the active handling safety system engaged, however, all tests were completed without skidding and without accidents. Small wonder, therefore, that the Mercedes-Benz engineers did not hesitate to test ESP on real-world roads. Series development began in 1992. More than 40 engineers from Mercedes-Benz and Bosch worked together on this ground-breaking project which was completed with the incorporation of the system in large-scale production in 1995.

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Mercedes-Benz-Blog TRIVIA: Mercedes-Benz and the invention of the anti-lock braking system: ABS, ready for production in 1978


Stuttgart, Germany, Jul 01, 2008

In August 1978 Mercedes-Benz presented the second-generation anti-lock braking system (ABS), developed together with Bosch, to the press in Untertürkheim. The world-first enables a driver to retain steering control even during emergency braking. From December the innovation became available, initially in the S-Class sedans (116 series).

Eight years before, in 1970, the first-generation anti-lock braking system for passenger cars, a system that had been developed together with TELDIX, had its world premiere. ABS is thus an example of the great staying power sometimes required to bring a product up to production standard – a responsibility which the Mercedes-Benz brand takes upon itself again and again with its numerous innovations.

Development over decades

An anti-lock braking system had been on the automotive engineers' list of wishes for decades – it was, after all, expected to improve handling safety drastically by retaining steerability during braking. As early as 1928 the German Karl Wessel had been granted a patent on a braking force regulator for automobiles, but this design only existed on paper.

In 1941, an anti-lock regulator was tested with which, however, "only modest successes were achieved," as the "Automobiltechnisches Handbuch" (Automotive Engineering Manual) reported.

Nevertheless, these first attempts set the course: an anti-lock braking system had to have sensors for measuring the speeds of each front wheel, as well as a control unit for recording and comparing the data measured by the sensors. This control unit was to correct excessive deviations by individually controlling the brake pressure at every wheel up to the point at which the wheel is about to lock.
However, the transfer of the idea into hardware for use on the road proved to be significantly more difficult than expected. The sensors did work satisfactorily as early as 1952, in an anti-skid system for aircraft, and in 1954 in a Knorr braking system for railways.

But in the car, the demands on the mechanical friction wheel sensors were much higher: they had to register decelerations and accelerations in wheel speeds, they had to react reliably in corners and on rough ground and work perfectly even when heavily soiled and at high temperatures.

Induction instead of mechanics

The problem was tackled not only by Daimler-Benz engineers but also at TELDIX GmbH in Heidelberg. The two companies did not make any headway with mechanical sensors, so they had to look for another, new solution.

In 1967, they came up with a solution to the problem in a joint effort – in the form of contactless speed pickups which operate on the principle of induction. Their signals were to be evaluated by an electronic unit which controlled brake pressure via solenoid valves.

At the time, electronics still worked on the basis of analogue technology which was relatively susceptible to failure and consisted of complicated circuitry. Integrated modules did not yet exist. And yet, this proved to be a first, promising approach.
For this reason, Daimler-Benz introduced this first generation of an anti-lock braking system for cars, trucks and buses to the public on the test track in Untertürkheim on December 12, 1970 – with a resounding echo by an enthusiastic expert world and press. The principle had been found to be convincing.

Development of the production ABS

Another eight years passed before Daimler-Benz was able to offer a reliably functioning anti-lock braking system for production cars; this time was required to give the prototype the degree of technical maturity and reliability that is indispensable for large-scale production. In development, the engineers benefited from the revolution in electronics. It was not until the invention of integrated circuits that small, robust computers could be built, capable of recording wheel sensor data in next to no time and reliably actuating the valves for adjusting brake pressure.
It took development partner Bosch five years to supply the first digital control unit to Untertürkheim for test purposes. Digital instead of analogue: this meant fewer components with the advantage of the risk of malfunction being reduced down to virtually zero.

Thanks to digital technology, the electronic components were capable of recording, comparing, evaluating and transforming sensor data into governor pulses for the brakes' solenoid valves within milliseconds. What's more, not only the front wheels but also the rear wheels were included in the control operations.

1978: The world's first production ABS

Thus, it had taken a long, long time before Mercedes-Benz became the world's first motor manufacturer in August 1978 to officially launch the second-generation anti-lock braking system and to offer it as an option from December 1978 – initially in the S-Class at a surcharge of DM 2,217.60. Since 1984, ABS has been standard equipment on Mercedes-Benz passenger cars. Ten years after the introduction, as many as one million Mercedes-Benz cars with ABS were being operated on the roads throughout the world.

Mercedes-Benz also adopted a pioneering role where ABS for commercial vehicles was concerned. As early as 1981 ABS was offered for compressed-air brakes, a joint development with Wabco. ABS has been standard equipment on all touring coaches of the brand since 1987 and on all trucks of the brand since 1991. In late 1990, ABS also found its way into the Mercedes-Benz racing cars for the German Touring Car Championship.

Basis for innovations

ABS development never stops. The complete control system is becoming ever smaller, ever more effective, ever more robust. The initial, typical pulsating of the brake pedal, indicating ABS activation, has largely been eliminated today. However, the system not only optimally decelerates the car and retains its steerability, it also serves as the basis and pulse generator for the acceleration skid control (ASR) system, the Electronic Stability Program ESP®, the Brake Assist and of course also for the electro-hydraulic brake system, Sensotronic Brake Control (SBCTM).

In Mercedes-Benz passenger cars, the wheel sensor data also serves less conspicuous functions in that it is, for instance, processed by the electronically controlled automatic transmission that adjusts to the driver's wishes, the navigation computer, the DISTRONIC proximity control, the engine and windshield wiper control, the active suspension control (ABC), 4MATIC – in short, by everything in the car that is controlled on the basis of speed. The same naturally applies to trucks and buses.

Anti-lock braking system is a matter of course throughout the world today

If the anti-lock braking system is today taken for granted in virtually all cars of the majority of automotive brands throughout the world, we owe this to the commitment of the large number of engineers and technicians at Daimler-Benz and cooperation partners Bosch, TELDIX and Wabco, who searched for the best solution for this system which improves handling safety, avoids accidents and saves lives.

This is what Heinz Leiber, the then head of ABS development at Daimler-Benz and also called the "Father of ABS", has to say: "The anti-lock braking system – and with it Mercedes-Benz – was also a pioneer in automotive digital electronics."

Copyright © 2008, Mercedes-Benz-Blog. All rights reserved.

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Mercedes-Benz-Blog TRIVIA: Juan Manuel Fangio memorial at the Grand Prix circuit in Monaco


Stuttgart/Monte Carlo, Germany/Principality of Monaco, May 20, 2003

* Gift to the principality of Monaco and the Monaco Automobile Club

* Homage to the five-time Formula One World Champion and two-time Monaco GP winner

* Symbol of sportsmanship and the traditional ties between Mercedes-Benz and Monaco

On May 20, 2003, just days before the Monaco Grand Prix, Prof. Jürgen Hubbert – member of the DaimlerChrysler Board of Management – is to unveil a life-size bronze statue of Juan Manuel Fangio. The statue depicts the 5-time Formula One World Champion from the 1950s standing next to his Mercedes-Benz W 196 Grand Prix racer. The sculpture – to be set up after the famous Rascasse bend at the pit-lane entrance – is a memorial to the legendary motor-racing idol. Prof. Jürgen Hubbert, member of the Board of Management of DaimlerChrysler AG and responsible for the Mercedes Car Group: "Juan Manuel Fangio's name stands for motor-racing passion, fair play and sportsmanship far beyond his own day. The statue at this traditional location pays homage to a great racing driver and underlines his importance in the world of sport." Over the years, Prince Rainier III formed a close friendship with the Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio, who died on July 17, 1995 at the age of 84.

Those in attendance when the memorial is officially unveiled will include artist Joaquim Ros, the President of the "Fangio Foundation" Antonio Mandiola, the president of the Monaco Automobile Club (ACM), Michel Boeri, as well as motor-racing drivers of today and yesteryear, among them Emerson Fittipaldi, Niki Lauda and David Coulthard. Famous people from other sporting disciplines – visting Monaco for the "Laureus World Sports Awards" evening gala – will also attend the unveiling ceremony.

Juan Manuel Fangio ranks among the most successful drivers in the history of motor racing and was one of the most outstanding personalities among the drivers not just of his own era in post-war Grand Prix racing. As one of the most popular protagonists in the motor-racing legend that is Mercedes-Benz, his name is inextricably linked with sporting achievement and driving excellence. He was also renowned for having an extremely likeable nature. Fangio competed in four Monaco Grand Prix, winning two of them.

Juan Manuel Fangio, respectfully called "El Chueco" ("bandy-legs") by his friends, was born on June 24, 1911 in Balcarce, 300 km south of Buenos Aires. He competed in his first race in 1936 and, in 1940, scored victory in the Argentinean "Gran Premio Internacionale". In 1950 he drove for Alfa Romeo and clinched his first World Champion's title in 1951. A serious accident briefly curtailed his career in 1952. In 1954, the legendary racing manager Alfred Neubauer signed him on as a member of the Mercedes-Benz racing squad. He was crowned Formula One World Champion in the same year and repeated the feat in 1955. After Daimler-Benz AG withdrew from Grand Prix racing, Fangio clinched his fourth and fifth Formula One world titles in 1956 and 1957, driving a Lancia-Ferrari and Maserati, respectively. He ended his illustrious motorsport career at the age of 47. Fangio retained his links with Mercedes-Benz, becoming President of Mercedes-Benz Argentina. His relationship with the brand remained close right up until his death. DaimlerChrysler AG continues to be committed to the Fangio Foundation in Argentina.

With this posthumous tribute in such a prominent position on the exciting Monaco street circuit, a new, visible expression is given to the memory of this great driver and true gentleman at the wheel. At the same time, the statue testifies to the traditional ties of Mercedes-Benz with both the dynasty and the legendary racing circuit, dating back to 1929. This was the year that Rudolf Caracciola achieved third place in a 250-hp Mercedes-Benz SSK. Luigi Fagioli won in 1935, with Caracciola victorious again in 1936. Both men piloted the Mercedes-Benz W 25 Grand Prix racer, the very first "Silver Arrow".

The bronze work, weighing more than three tons, was created by the Catalan artist Joaquim Ros and commissioned by Sabastiá Salvadó Plandiura, the President of the "Reial Automòbil Club de Catalunya (Catalan Automobile Club)". It is a life-size statue of Fangio standing next to a stylized version of his Mercedes-Benz W 196 racer from the 1950s. Fangio fans can climb into the cockpit of the sculpted racing car and have a souvenir photo taken.

The original statue is set up at the Grand Prix circuit in Barcelona. Five copies were cast by a specialist Spanish foundry, Barberi, at the initiative of DaimlerChrysler Classic and in agreement with the artist, the "Fangio Foundation" in Balcarce, Argentina (Fangio's birthplace and also where his museum is located) and co-sponsor YPF Repsol. The first copy was set up at the Nürburgring, the second is the one to be unveiled at the Grand Prix circuit in Monaco. The other copies of the Fangio statue will then be unveiled in Italy, in Argentina and to mark the opening of the new Mercedes-Benz Museum at Stuttgart-Untertürkheim in 2006.

Copyright © 2008, Mercedes-Benz-Blog. All rights reserved.

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