According to the World Health Organization (WHO) report on road safety, 1.3 million people still die every year due to road accidents. The number of people who suffer serious injuries is estimated to be 20 to 50 million. Therefore, road safety still needs to be improved. This is also the opinion of Mercedes-Benz, after all the brand is a real pioneer in this field and was one of the first manufacturers to install ABS, ESP and airbags in its products as standard. The goal is now set to reduce the number of traffic deaths on European roads to zero by 2050: “With its safety and assistance systems, Mercedes-Benz is actively working towards the goal of Vision Zero. This goal is a clear vision to have zero road deaths by 2050 and halve the number of road deaths and serious injuries between 2020 and 2030,” Mercedes said in a press release in October.
Was that a marketing problem, or is Mercedes serious? Julia Hinners, vehicle safety engineer at Mercedes-Benz, confirms: “This is a specific objective that not only affects the passengers in our cars, but also vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and road users of electric motorcycles”. But isn’t the goal set too high? Once again Julia Hinners: “No, it’s not. In the 1970s there were more than 20,000 deaths per year on German roads alone. Today there are less than 3000! This shows that the trend is going in the right direction. In the last 50 years, we have dealt mainly with passive safety systems that protect car occupants in the event of an accident. Now we also focus on active safety systems, such as B. Driving assistants». These ensure that accidents do not occur in the first place. The number of assistance systems – there are already up to 40 in modern cars – should be further extended. And the systems are set to be better. Lidar, which is already used in the top Mercedes, should also ensure more safety in the lower classes in the future.
EQS shows a lot
Of course, none of this explains exactly how the Daimler Group intends to proceed technically to achieve its goals. And of course, one should not rely too much on engineers to reveal trade secrets, especially since it is very difficult to predict what technical innovations will be invented in the next three decades. However, it is possible to guess them. An interesting tip for this is the brand’s flagship model, EQS. Logical conclusion: since cars with internal combustion engines are unlikely to be registered in Europe after 2035, electric cars will become more widespread over the next ten years. As a leading star, EQS therefore offers a good view of what is to come.
Even if electric cars have some new risks in terms of safety, they are basically no different from those with internal combustion engines. “First of all, it must be said that there is no difference between an electric car and a car with a combustion engine in terms of passenger safety. Both are equally safe», Julia Hinners believes. Special precautions are necessary only for high-voltage components : “To avoid the risk of electric shock or short circuit, we have introduced a multi-step safety concept. Important high-voltage components are placed in the middle of the vehicle, where there is less chance of being hit. This applies, for example, to high-voltage cables, which are also still surrounded by a thick, very safe sheath.” High-voltage components are also equipped with pyrotechnic fuses that can automatically shut down the system, for example in the event of a potential collision. danger is approaching.
In addition to these innovative solutions, proven technologies are also being further developed. This applies especially to an independent body, consisting of different materials with different deformation properties. In the event of an impact, the deformation takes place in a controlled way and the energy is dispersed in the right place. This method is not revolutionary, but it is likely to change in the future as more and different devices are used. In addition to various steels with high and very high elasticity, EQS also includes aluminum profiles produced by cast aluminum parts that are inserted into a metal mold or matrix using a die machine.
And we are only talking about the body. The number of airbags in the passenger compartment will likely continue to increase. In addition to front, side, window and knee airbags, there will also be more and more belt airbags in the future. These can increase the area of the seat belt and thus better distribute the force of the impact on the upper part of the passenger, thus reducing the risk of injury.
“Mercedes-Benz’s philosophy is to develop safety systems that not only pass various tests, but above all work well in practice. For this reason, Mercedes-Benz accident research has been investigating real accidents for more than 50 years,” explains Hinners. Since its inception in 1969, it has analyzed and reconstructed more than 5,000 real collisions. Important information is obtained from the results, which helps engineers understand how accidents occur, how collisions affect occupants, but also how they could have been avoided.
Since accident trends vary around the world, Mercedes-Benz has to keep evolving. Accident research has established teams in China and India, for example, that deal with local characteristics of road traffic and therefore accidents. These teams are in regular contact with experts in Sindelfingen near Stuttgart, where Mercedes not only carries out crash research but also car development.
Daimler has great support
In pursuit of total security, Mercedes-Benz explains that the group is not left to their own devices: “The German federal government has included this vision in its coalition agreement, and the WHO is also involved with the regional commissions of the United Nations. ,” explains the German manufacturer in a press release. To make Vision Zero a reality, many institutions across Europe are working hand in hand with traffic and urban planning authorities, road traffic authorities and parliament.
The last technical development that Mercedes-Benz builds into its products will most likely be the autonomous driving software. Replacing the driver behind the wheel means replacing the last weak link in the chain that can make the car 100 percent safe. Paul Dick, head of vehicle safety at the Mercedes-Benz Group, writes in a press release: “Advanced automated and autonomous driving will make a significant contribution to realizing our vision of accident-free driving.” It remains to be seen how much driving fun there will still be when driving is no longer allowed. Because one thing must be clear: Research is not only about safety, but ultimately also about the fact that no one is allowed to drive independently anymore.
Mercedes Benz to Volvo
Mercedes-Benz is not the first car manufacturer to take on the Vision Zero challenge. In 2007, Volvo announced its intention to reduce the number of deaths in its cars to zero. However, the company set itself an ambitious deadline of 2020. However, by 2020, Volvo did not announce anything about the project, indicating failure. When asked by AUTO-MOBIL REVUE, the Swedish manufacturer openly admitted this. “We have done extensive research and one of the reasons that has prevented us from reaching our goal is that safety is not only the result of technological development, but is also related to human behavior,” the manufacturer answered us.
This explains why the brand is now paying more attention to the behavioral trend of safe driving. Despite this, the company says that its program has “significantly reduced the number of deaths and injuries to occupants of Volvo vehicles”. And that is already a great success.