Safety: Vehicle and vehicle surroundings
Strategy and concepts
Increasing traffic safety
Zero traffic fatalities by 2050 — that’s the target of Vision Zero, which was a component of the 2018 coalition agreement reached by the former government. In addition, the Vision Zero target is one of the guiding principles in the revision of the German Road Traffic Regulations (StVO). The next milestone to be achieved on the road to Vision Zero is to reduce the number of traffic fatalities and critically injured individuals by 50 per cent by 2030 as compared to 2020. The safety and assistance systems that the Mercedes-Benz Group as a vehicle manufacturer has developed can make an important contribution to the achievement of this milestone and Vision Zero.
Safety is part of our DNA and one of our most important obligations — not just towards our customers but towards all road users. We aim to achieve the best possible accident safety results with a high degree of occupant protection and protection of other road users.
We therefore focus strongly on safety as early as the vehicle development stage. For decades, our in-house accident research has laid the foundation for innovative safety technologies and the development of more efficient systems. We plan to continue pursuing this approach in future as we increasingly integrate assistance systems into our vehicles. These systems are designed to prevent or to mitigate the effects of as many accidents as possible. We also continue to take measures that increase public awareness of the importance of traffic safety through education programmes and roadshows, for example, and we provide information on safety technology and innovations.
Real-life safety: Based on real-life accidents
Real-life safety is the safety philosophy at Mercedes-Benz. For more than 50 years now, our accident research experts have been systematically studying real accidents, as our goal is to build vehicles that offer effective protection not only in crash-test halls but also out on the road. While observing the principles of data protection we analyse real accidents and use the knowledge gained from such analyses to assess new technologies from a vehicle safety perspective. For example, accident data on vehicles with combustion engines have helped us identify the best possible location for installing batteries and high-voltage components in electric vehicles. Our accident research activities also determined that, depending on the location of the high-voltage systems, we also have to take into account the possibility that other road users could collide with the vehicle during the battery charging process. One of the results of these analyses is that the airbag control unit in the EQS now remains active during the battery charging process. In other words, the electric vehicle now automatically interrupts the charging process if a collision occurs.
As a result of our meticulous accident research activities, our vehicle safety requirements go beyond what is mandated by law in many cases.
Holistic safety concept
The Mercedes-Benz Group employs the holistic Integral Safety concept in its vehicle development activities. We first used this concept in the late 1990s to describe how we had divided the utilisation of vehicle safety systems into four phases: “Assist while driving”, “Prepare for a possible crash”, “Protect during a crash” and “Help after a crash”.
Our safety measures establish a bridge between active and passive safety within these four phases — i.e. between accident prevention (phases 1 and 2) and protection when an accident occurs (phases 3 and 4).
- Phase 1: Assist while driving Driver assistance systems that make driving safer, assist drivers and can help to prevent accidents. One example here is the Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC system.
- Phase 2: Prepare for a possible crash Safety/emergency systems that can warn, assist and engage automatically, as well as protection systems that can already be activated in the pre-accident phase (PRE-SAFE®). One example is Active Brake Assist, which we developed in different versions for cars and vans. This system, which is included as standard equipment, can, for example, help mitigate the severity of a collision with other vehicles, pedestrians or cyclists, or completely prevent such collisions to begin with.
- Phase 3: Protection during an accident Protection systems that can intelligently protect all vehicle occupants as required in the given situation. One example is offered by innovative restraint systems such as the beltbag and the rear airbag in the S-Class, which protect passengers in the rear seat.
- Phase 4: Help after a crash Systems that automatically switch on the hazard lights, ventilate the interior or call for help. Mercedes-Benz also provides important vehicle information in easily accessible rescue data sheets that make it easier for emergency services and rescue teams to do their jobs.
Driving assistance systems ensure greater safety on the road
“Real-life safety” is Mercedes-Benz’s safety philosophy. Going above and beyond regulations and rating agency requirements, Mercedes-Benz analyses real driving situations and derives the requirements for its vehicles from the analyses. Here, all technical innovations are evaluated on the basis of the contribution they make to traffic safety.
Mercedes-Benz assistance and safety systems make driving both safe and comfortable. For example, Mercedes-Benz vehicles equipped with driver assistance systems support drivers when they steer, brake and accelerate ( SAE Level 2). Mercedes-Benz is also going a step further towards automated driving, as we plan to equip the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class with the DRIVE PILOT system in future. This system enables conditionally automated driving (SAE Level 3) in certain situations.
Driver assistance systems can react differently to the danger of a collision, depending on the situation. One example here is the Active Brake Assist system in Mercedes-Benz cars, which comes as standard equipment in our current fleet. Active Brake Assist can help mitigate the consequences of or even prevent accidents with vehicles ahead and with pedestrians crossing the carriageway. If the system identifies the risk of a collision, it is able to issue visual and acoustic warnings to the driver. If the driver fails to react, Active Brake Assist can independently brake the vehicle when travelling at up to a certain speed. When the vehicle is travelling at urban traffic speeds, the system also reacts to stationary vehicles and pedestrians as well as cyclists crossing the carriageway, thereby enhancing the safety of other road users as well.
Accident research and crash tests
Mercedes-Benz has long been considered a safety pioneer — and still is, to this day. Mercedes-Benz conducted its first crash test back in 1959, and for more than 50 years now the brand’s safety experts in the in-house accident research department have been analysing real accidents involving Mercedes-Benz vehicles. The results of internal crash tests and accident research activities are incorporated into the design of new models and are used to improve existing systems as well.
The goal here is to gain a better understanding of how accidents occur and which protective systems could have been used to prevent them. The analysis of real traffic accidents forms the basis for the development of innovative safety technologies and ever more effective systems. This is how the vehicle exit warning function in the Blind Spot Assist system was developed, for example. Here, a radar sensor system monitors the blind spot and can warn the occupants of approaching traffic — bicycles, for example — when the door is being opened.
Mercedes-Benz also uses state-of-the-art testing equipment to evaluate the crash safety of its vehicles and their systems at the Technology Centre for Vehicle Safety (TFS) in Sindelfingen. Mercedes-Benz employs computer simulations to improve the maturity level of test vehicles and safety systems even before the first crash test; this increases the efficiency of the development process. On the crash-test tracks at TFS, around 900 crash tests as well as approximately 1,700 sled tests can be performed annually.
In many cases, our high internal safety requirements go beyond what is mandated by law and beyond the requirements set by rating agencies. The load cases that are tested in the crash tests are also defined in part on the basis of the results of Mercedes-Benz accident research activities.
Working together to further improve vehicle safety
The goal of continuously increasing road safety can only be achieved though collaboration, which is why we enter into various partnerships and participate in research projects. Together with external partners, we are working to define standard procedures that can be used to predict the potential of new protection systems. We also want to work more closely with existing and new partners in order to continually improve and extend the ways accident and traffic data are collected and analysed.
Since 2016, we have been involved in the “Tech Center i-protect” strategic cooperation project, which includes partners from business and industry, government and scientific institutes. We are now conducting research into vehicle safety solutions together with Robert Bosch GmbH, the Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Dynamics, the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials, the Sustainability Center Freiburg, Cluster of Excellence SimTech at the University of Stuttgart, TU Dresden and Graz University of Technology. The cooperation agreement upon which this partnership is based was renewed by the project partners in autumn 2021 for another five years in the presence of Dr Nicole Hoffmeister-Kraut, Minister of Economic Affairs, Labour and Tourism of the German federal state of Baden-Württemberg.
Our activities within the project include research into new restraint systems for future vehicle interiors, for example. We are also utilising digital accident research methods and trying out new approaches, such as the use of X-ray technology in crash tests. The goal of this interdisciplinary cooperation is to network various projects in an agile manner in order to develop ideas and technologies from the fundamental research stage to the near market-readiness stage.
Ideas for the vehicle of the future
Mercedes-Benz has been building test vehicles known as Experimental Safety Vehicles (ESF) since the 1970s in order to analyse the performance of its safety systems. The ESF 2019 presents more than 20 new ideas from Mercedes-Benz, as well as new approaches in the field of active and passive safety, including near-series developments such as rear airbags, which are now available in the S-Class.
The ESF 2019 is a research vehicle that showcases a safety concept for future models that can be operated in an assisted mode (SAE Level 0–2) or as highly automated vehicles (SAE Level 4). The ESF 2019 will thus remain relevant over the next few years as well. Examples of future focal points for development include adapting the restraint systems to new seat positions and implementing cooperative functions in the highly automated driving mode (SAE Level 4) — i.e. communication between the vehicle and its surroundings.
Safety for high-voltage batteries and electric components
As is the case with fuel tanks in vehicles with combustion engines, the Mercedes-Benz Group pays special attention to safety aspects relating to high-voltage batteries and other electrical components in electric vehicles. A high degree of conceptual safety is guaranteed to begin with by virtue of the high-voltage battery’s especially protected installed location under the vehicle floor.
Additional safety specifications go beyond legal requirements and increase intrinsic safety. For example, special shielding in the vehicle underbodies of our electric vans — the eVito, the eSprinter and the EQV — ensures particularly high resistance to mechanical damage from external sources. The powertrain, the high-voltage battery and all of the high-voltage lines are embedded in a protective structure. All high-voltage lines are extensively insulated.
Our vehicles are also equipped with a multi-stage safety system that includes temperature and voltage monitoring features, among other things, and can also shut down the batteries in an emergency. If the vehicle systems detect a severe impact, all live components outside the battery are shut down in either a reversible or an irreversible process, depending on the situation. The residual energy in the components is also rapidly reduced to a safe level. In addition, the vehicles are equipped with a high-voltage disconnect device that emergency teams can use to deactivate the power supply manually. The location of the high-voltage disconnect device varies depending on the vehicle in question and can be found in each vehicle’s rescue sheet.
Mercedes-Benz Vans: Assistance systems ensure a high degree of safety
Mercedes-Benz is also building on its high safety standards in the van segment. Whether it’s the Sprinter, the Citan or the Vito, the models from Mercedes-Benz Vans are equipped with a wide variety of advanced safety and assistance systems. These systems improve comfort and can help to mitigate the severity of accidents or prevent them from happening altogether.
For example, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is fitted with the radar-based Distance Assist DISTRONIC system and features Crosswind Assist as standard. The latter makes driving safer particularly at higher speeds. Since 2021, the Mercedes-Benz Vito has been fitted with a digital rearview mirror. Thanks to an HDR camera in the rear window, the camera provides the driver with a clear view of the area behind the vehicle, despite visual obstacles such as a fully loaded cargo bay.
We’re taking things another step further with the Mercedes-Benz SUSTAINEER. This technology vehicle, which is based on the eSprinter, has two electric mirror cams instead of conventional large exterior mirrors. The mirror cams greatly increase the field of vision and thus the safety of the driver and other road users such as pedestrians and cyclists. The SUSTAINEER can also identify road conditions using a camera. Here, Artificial Intelligence systems in the Mercedes-Benz Cloud detect and analyse damage to the carriageway, such as large potholes; this makes it possible to recognise potential hazards in advance. The data thus collected can also be made available to cities, municipalities and traffic reporting services, for example, which would help increase road safety in general.
Increasing awareness of the importance of traffic safety
As a socially responsible company, the Mercedes-Benz Group actively addresses important social issues. A variety of projects that focus on traffic safety are also important to us in this regard.
Making children more aware of traffic safety issues
Children are among the road users who are most at risk around the world. That is why we established our MobileKids initiative back in 2001. This initiative teaches children between the ages of six and ten how to stay safe in road traffic. More specifically, MobileKids offers training courses and teaching materials worldwide in local languages and also stages activities that make children more aware of the challenges and dangers on roads and streets.
Effectiveness and results
The effectiveness of our management approach
Systematic accident research forms the basis of the ability to prevent accidents in an even more targeted manner in future and offer better protection to vehicle occupants. Our goal is therefore to expand our accident research activities. For example, our experts will continue to study actual accidents involving Mercedes-Benz models, and we will also work even more closely with existing and new partners and analyse anonymised accident data from around the world while observing the principles of data protection.
Mercedes-Benz car models repeatedly earn top marks in safety tests conducted by independent institutes. Of particular note in this regard are the ratings Mercedes-Benz regularly receives from the American Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The IIHS rating assesses both crash safety and accident-prevention and lighting systems. The Mercedes-Benz C-Class, E-Class and GLE-Class received the IIHS “2021 TOP SAFETY PICK+” distinction for the 2021 model year, while the GLC was given the “2021 TOP SAFETY PICK” distinction. In addition, both the EQA (2019 version, compact SUV category) and the EQS (2021 version) were awarded five out of five possible stars by EuroNCAP during the reporting period. The EQS was even named “Best in Class” twice: in the categories “Executive” and “Pure Electric”, which means all EQ models launched on the market in 2021 received the highest possible ratings.1