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AUTOMOTIVE TESTING: EXPERIMENTAL SAFETY 


presents a wide variety of innovations which the company is currently researching and developing.


SANDPIT FOR DEVELOPERS The notion behind the ESF is that it’s experimental, so during its life many innovations will be tried out on the platform. Even now, the vehicle has a number of experimental safety features that Mercedes-Benz is working on: Passive safety:When cars are working autonomously, a different approach can be taken to passive safety to protect car occupants. Ideas include the automatic retraction of the steering wheel and pedal cluster to reduce the risk of injury during a crash. The greater interior flexibility of autonomous cars offers more scope for new ideas in restraint systems and airbags with alternative installation spaces. For rear seat passengers, new airbag


inflation concepts are being explored to deploy and position the device correctly using a tubular structure. With belt- feeders, belt buckle illumination and belt heating, the ESF 2019 is being used to explore a number of ideas by which rear- seated passengers might be motivated to wear seat belts. Active safety: New features on the ESF 2019 include additional braking assistance especially for unprotected road users. When turning, it now detects pedestrians and cyclists moving in parallel to the original direction of travel. If a collision with unprotected road users crossing the road into which the vehicle is turning is imminent, the driver receives a visual and audible warning. Autonomous braking is initiated if the driver fails to react. The same also applies if there are any cyclists in the blind spot when turning towards the driver’s side. The 360° pedestrian protection system warns and assists while parking and manoeuvring if there is a risk of collision with more vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians and cyclists.


ADVANCED AUTOMOTIVE TESTING The ESF 2019 will undergo rigorous testing at Mercedes’ own facilities at its headquarters in Sindelfingen, Germany. The Technology Centre for Vehicle Safety


(TFS) is home to a wide range of state-of- the-art test facilities and includes a crash test centre that creates the conditions for new test procedures, such as car-to-car collisions at all angles and the evaluation of automated manoeuvres following a crash as well as crash tests with trucks, electric vehicles and other alternative drive systems. Around 70 different crash test configurations are possible for complete


34 /// Testing & Test Houses /// June 2019 ESF MODELS THROUGH THE AGES


According to Källenius, Mercedes has repeatedly demonstrated since the 1970s, when the first ESF was launched, that the company is not short of safety ideas. Mercedes-Benz is now continuing this long-standing tradition with the ESF 2019. For the ESV Safety Conferences held


from 1971 to 1975, safety experts at Mercedes-Benz built more than 30 experimental vehicles which they crash- tested to achieve their visionary safety objectives. Four of these vehicles – ESF 5, ESF 13


(both based on the medium-class W 114/8” series), ESF 22 and ESF 24 (both based on the W 116-series S-Class) – were presented to the public.


vehicles and there is also a sled test facility to test components. Mercedes-Benz is working on


approximating the crash test in the hall even more closely to what happens in real accidents. For example, assessments can be made even more precisely when emergency braking or evasive action precedes the actual impact, something which isn’t possible in standard NCAP style crash tests. Such tests demand greater space and the


TFS has the longest crash track available at more than 200m long. A total of five crash blocks are available, one of them freely movable and another rotatable around the vertical axis. For efficient operation, these two crash blocks are preconfigured with a different barrier on each of the four sides. By virtue of a mobile partitioning system, the complex allows up to four crash tracks to be in operation at the same time. Thanks to the operating concept and flexible layout of the facility, around 900 crash tests can be conducted each year. There is also capacity for around 1,700 sled tests a year. The large, pillar-free area is suitable for


testing pre-crash systems during the pre- accident phase or for vehicle-to-vehicle


❱❱ The original ESF experimental vehicle headed out onto the proving grounds around Stuttgart in the early 1970s


The first ESF vehicle for many years, and


the direct predecessor to the ESF 2019, was the ESF 2009. This research vehicle celebrated its premiere on 15 June 2009, at the 21st ESV (enhanced safety of vehicles) conference in Stuttgart. Numerous innovations in the ESF 2009


have meanwhile entered series production. These include the beltbag available for the S-Class, PRE-SAFE Impulse Side for the E- Class, CLS and GLE and Active High Beam Assist Plus, which is available on many commercially available models.


crashes – the vehicle being powered by a traction cable in the conventional way. Work is also under way to allow test vehicles to move on a freely programmable basis under their own power without the use of a traction cable.


RESTRAINT SYSTEM TESTING Numerous tests are necessary to develop and fine-tune restraint systems such as seat belts, airbags or child seats – the development maturity of the components is examined in sled tests conducted before the overall vehicle test. Sled-test damage is very localised so is a


cost-effective exercise, especially when the vehicle being tested is very expensive in the early stages and only available in small numbers. So a reinforced body with the necessary interior fittings is mounted on a sled and accelerated to simulate the effect of a crash. At the TFS, these tests can be


conducted on four different test sleds capable of acceleration/deceleration with g-forces usually ranging from slightly more than 0g up to about 80g; such forces can even reach 120g for some component tests. T&TH


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