Vehicle and vehicle surroundings
Strategy and concepts
Enhancing traffic safety
In 2018, the former German federal government incorporated “Vision Zero” into the coalition agreement with the goal of “zero traffic fatalities by 2050". The Vision Zero target is also one of the guiding principles in the amendment of the German Road Traffic Regulations (StVO). On the way there, the next stage is to halve the number of road fatalities and serious injuries by 2030 compared to 2020. With sophisticated safety and assistance systems, a vehicle manufacturer like the Mercedes-Benz Group can make a decisive contribution to achieving these goals. The mission is clear: best possible accident safety with high occupant and partner protection.
For many decades, the Mercedes-Benz Group’s in-house accident research, which is integrated into vehicle development, has been laying the foundations for innovative, high-performance safety systems. Its specialists are continuously working on enhancing traffic safety and equipping vehicles with increasingly powerful assistance systems which can help to prevent accidents or reduce their severity. The Mercedes-Benz Group also raises public awareness of traffic and vehicle safety issues in educational programmes.
Real-life safety: Based on real-life accidents
"Real-life safety” – this is the safety philosophy of the Mercedes-Benz Group: for over 50 years, the Group has been conducting systematic accident research – because it wants to build vehicles that are convincing not only in terms of safety in crash tests, but also on the road. While respecting data protection, its specialists therefore analyse real accidents and use the findings to enable new technologies to be evaluated under the aspect of vehicle safety. For example, the Mercedes-Benz Group has used accident data from vehicles with combustion engines to define the best possible installation space for battery and high-voltage components in electric vehicles.
The result of the Mercedes-Benz Group’s meticulous accident research: in many defined cases, the Group’s demands on vehicle safety extend beyond the legal requirements.
Holistic safety concept
The Mercedes-Benz Group utilizes its holistic integral safety concept in its vehicle development activities. This concept was first used in the late 1990s to describe how Mercedes-Benz had divided the utilization of safety systems into four phases: Assistance during driving, Preparation for a possible accident, Protection during an accident and Help after an accident.
With its safety measures, the Group bridges the gap between active and passive safety in four phases: between accident prevention (phases 1 and 2) and protection in the event of an accident (phases 3 and 4):
Phase 1: Assist when driving with comfort assistance systems that make driving safer, assist the driver and can help to prevent accidents. One example is the Active Distance Assist “DISTRONIC”, which is already included as standard in the first models.
Phase 2: Prepare for a possible accident with assistance and safety systems that can warn, assist and act automatically, as well as protection systems (PRE-SAFE®) that can be activated in the pre-accident phase. One example is Active Brake Assist, which the Mercedes Benz Group has developed in various forms for passenger cars and vans. This system, which is included as standard equipment, can help mitigate the severity of a collision with vehicles or other road users, or completely prevent such collisions altogether.
Phase 3: Protect during an accident with systems that can protect all vehicle occupants intelligently and according to need. One example is innovative restraint systems such as the beltbag and the rear airbag in the S-Class for passengers in the rear seats.
Phase 4: Help after the accident with systems that automatically switch on the hazard warning lights, ventilate the passenger compartment or summon help. In addition, the Mercedes-Benz Group provides important vehicle information in easily accessible rescue data sheets which can facilitate the work of the rescue workers. One example is the "Mercedes-Benz eCall”, which sends an automated emergency call after a serious accident.
Assistance and safety systems
Beyond the legal requirements and rating standards, the Mercedes-Benz Group analyses real driving situations and derives corresponding requirements for its vehicles. Here, all technical innovations are evaluated on the basis of their contribution to traffic safety.
Mercedes-Benz assistance and safety systems aim to offer a high level of safety. For example, Mercedes-Benz vehicles equipped with driving assistance systems can support drivers when they steer, brake and accelerate (SAE Level 2). And Mercedes-Benz is going another step further in the direction of automated driving: the “DRIVE PILOT”1 can be ordered for the S-Class and EQS since May 2022 in defined countries. The system allows conditionally automated driving (SAE Level 3) under certain circumstances.
Driving assistance systems can react differently to the danger of a collision, depending on the situation. The Active Brake Assist system, which comes as standard equipment in Mercedes-Benz cars, is a good example of this. Active Brake Assist can help reduce the severity of – or even entirely prevent – accidents involving vehicles ahead or pedestrians crossing the carriageway. If a risk of collision is detected, the system can warn the driver both visually and acoustically. If the driver fails to react, Active Brake Assist can brake the vehicle independently up to a certain speed.
In addition, Speed Limit Assist, which has been fitted as standard starting in the Mercedes-Benz A-Class since 2018, was integrated and expanded in other models during the reporting year: The warning for excessive vehicle speed is active whenever the vehicles starts and through the use of acoustic and visual signals.
Accident research and crash tests
The Mercedes-Benz brand was considered a safety pioneer early on – and remains so today: The Mercedes-Benz Group conducted the first crash test back in 1959. For more than 50 years, safety professionals from the Group’s own accident research have been investigating accidents involving Mercedes-Benz vehicles. 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 provides the basis for innovative and efficient safety systems and the constant improvement of vehicles. For example, the exit warning function has also been created as part of Active Blind Spot Assist.
In addition, the Mercedes-Benz Group tests the crash safety of its vehicles and subsystems with state-of-the-art testing equipment at the Technology Center for Vehicle Safety (TFS) in Sindelfingen. Computer simulations enable the Group to improve the maturity of the test vehicles and safety systems even before the first crash test – and thus increase development efficiency. On the crash test tracks of the TFS, around 900 crash tests and around 1700 sled tests can be carried out each year.
In many cases, the Group’s high internal safety requirements go beyond what is mandated by law and beyond the requirements set by rating agencies. The impact loads tested in the crash test are also aligned with findings from accident research.
Cooperation for more vehicle safety
The goal of increasing safety on the road can only be achieved through collaboration, and that is why the Mercedes-Benz Group establishes partnerships and participates in research projects. Together with external partners, the Group is working to identify standard procedures that can be used to predict the potential of new protection systems. Furthermore, it intends to work even more closely with existing and new partners to constantly improve and extend collection of accident and traffic data.
The Mercedes-Benz Group has been involved in the strategic cooperation project “Tech Center i-protect”. The project includes partners from business, government and scientific institutes. Together with Robert Bosch GmbH, the Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Dynamics and the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Mechanics, the Sustainability Performance Center Freiburg, the SimTech Cluster of Excellence at the University of Stuttgart and the Technical Universities of Dresden and Graz, it is researching safety solutions for vehicles. Within this cooperation, for example, the Mercedes-Benz Group is working on projects such as new restraint systems for future vehicle interiors, using digital possibilities in accident research and testing new approaches such as the use of injury simulations with digital human models. 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 phase to the near market-readiness stage.
Ideas for the vehicle of the future
Since the 1970s, the Group has been building test vehicles to research safety systems – the so-called Experimental Safety Vehicles (ESF). With the ESF 2019, Mercedes-Benz presented more than 20 new ideas and new approaches in the field of active and passive safety – including developments close to series production such as the rear airbag, which is now available in the S-Class.
The ESF 2019 is a research vehicle that demonstrates a safety concept for future models that can be operated in assisted (SAE Levels 0-2) or fully automated (SAE Level 4) mode. The ESF 2019 will thus remain relevant over the next few years as well. Examples of future development priorities include the adaptation of restraint systems to new seating positions and cooperative behaviour in fully automated driving (SAE Level 4), involving communication between the vehicle and its surroundings.
Safety for high-voltage batteries and electric components
As 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. The installed position of the high-voltage batteries under the vehicle floor already ensures a high level of conceptual safety.
Additional safety specifications extend beyond legal requirements and increase the level of intrinsic safety: For example, special shielding in the vehicle underbodies of the Group’s electric vehicles 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.
The Group’s 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. At the same time, the residual energy in the components is quickly reduced to a harmless level. For rescue services, a rescue disconnection point is built in, which also allows the power supply to be cut off manually. The location of the high-voltage disconnect device varies depending on the vehicle in question and can be found in the rescue sheet of the respective vehicle.
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 Sprinter, Citan or Vito, the vehicles from Mercedes-Benz Vans feature a wide range of modern safety and assistance systems.
For example, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is equipped with the radar-based Distance Assist DISTRONIC and Crosswind Assist as standard, which can make driving safer, above all at higher speeds. The new T-Class features numerous driver assistance systems as standard. These include Hill Start Assist, Crosswind Assist, “ATTENTION ASSIST”, Active Brake Assist with Cross-Traffic Function, Active Lane Keeping Assist as well as Blind Spot Assist and Speed Limit Assist.
Raising awareness of traffic safety
As a socially responsible Group, the Mercedes-Benz Group actively addresses important social issues. Among other things, it is committed to a wide range of projects in the field of traffic safety.
This also includes “SAFE ROADS”: the aim of this initiative is to make the topic of safety tangible. With expert reports and exhibits, the Mercedes-Benz Group wants to educate and raise public awareness on the subject of traffic safety – especially in countries with a high incidence of road accidents. After the two-year break due to the pandemic, “SAFE ROADS” took place in India in the reporting year. On the first day, the focus was on “Child Safety”; on the second day, the “SAFE ROADS Summit India” was held with various stakeholders from industry, the press and politics. The Mercedes-Benz Group plans to continue this initiative in additional countries in 2023.
Making children fit for road traffic
Children are among the road users who are most at risk around the world. For this reason, the Mercedes-Benz Group launched the “MobileKids” initiative back in 2001. This trains children between the ages of six and ten to behave safely in road traffic. Around the world, “MobileKids” offers lessons, materials in the respective national languages and activities to sensitise children to the challenges of road traffic. “MobileKids” was part of the “SAFE ROADS” initiative in India in 2022. Representatives of the Mercedes-Benz Group visited local Indian schools as part of this initiative.
Effectiveness and results
Effectiveness of the management approach
Systematic accident research is the basis for the prevention of accidents in a more targeted manner in the future and for better occupant protection. The Mercedes-Benz Group has set itself the goal of further expanding its commitment to accident research: Its experts will therefore continue to investigate real accidents in which Mercedes-Benz vehicles were involved. In addition, the Group intends to work even more closely with existing and new partners and evaluate anonymised accident data that are available worldwide in compliance with data protection.
Top marks and award
Models from Mercedes-Benz Cars repeatedly receive top marks in safety tests 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 rating2 assesses crash safety as well as accident prevention and lighting systems.
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class and GLE-Class received the 2022 TOP SAFETY PICK+ award for the 2022 model year, while the GLC was given the 2022 TOP SAFETY PICK distinction.
In addition, the Mercedes EQE received top ratings twice: The maximum rating of five stars in the Euro NCAP3 safety ratings and the overall rating of “very good” for the optional driving assistance package in the special rating for assistance systems as well as a special Euro NCAP Advanced Award4 for its Car-to-X communication system.
The new T-Class from Mercedes-Benz Vans took part in the independent Euro NCAP5 safety test in July 2022. With its performance in the four categories of occupant safety, child safety, pedestrian protection and assistance systems it received five stars out of five. It even led the compact van segment in child safety. Five stars were also awarded to the Citan Tourer, which is especially designed to meet the needs of commercial passenger transport.6
1 Availability and use of DRIVE PILOT functions on the highway depend on equipment, countries and applicable laws
2 More information IIHS:
3 More information test results according to Euro NCAP:
4 More information Car-2-X communication
5 More information test results according to Euro NCAP
6 Citan Tourer euroncap.com/en/results/mercedes-benz/citan+tourer/46254