Mercedes-Benz ESF 2009 S400 Hybrid breaks cover

Article by Christian Andrei, on August 27, 2010

The German carmaker Mercedes-Benz has been coming out with safety features of the future that could become a commodity for mainstream vehicles someday. Back in 1974, Mercedes-Benz built its very first ESV (Experimental Safety Vehicle) called the ESF 2009, which was patterned after an S400 Hybrid and came with numerous safety features, most of which were working.

One of the most significant safety elements in the ESV is an auxiliary brake installed into the floor of the vehicle.

When the car senses an impending collision, the braking bag inflates, producing friction and increasing deceleration.

The front of the car is also lifted up by 80mm as a means by which dive is compensated. Furthermore, engineers of the German carmaker have created inflatable metal structures which can save space and boost protection in case of a collision.

These can be inflated by pressures ranging between 10 to 20 bar. The space they save become available for other safety devices to be installed.

When the car senses a side impact, with the aid of special seat bolsters, the occupants can be moved up to 50 mm to the center of the cabin. Reflective tires, full emergency braking and seat-belt fitted air bags are also part of the safety features of the car.

According to the carmaker, these safety features was not just about scoring points in crash tests, but it is a demonstration of how comprehensive Mercedes-Benz's approach to total car safety is.

Press Release

The ESF 2009 Experimental Safety Vehicle

2009 is a year in which Mercedes-Benz celebrates several anniversaries in the safety field: in August 1939 the safety pioneer Béla Barényi started his work in Sindelfingen. He invented for example the principle of the crumple zone, a trailblazing innovation which entered series production at Mercedes-Benz in 1959. With the help of its in-house accident research function, which was founded in 1969, Mercedes engineers in the following years have developed several groundbreaking innovations in passenger car safety. Now it is time for a look behind the scenes, and in this anniversary year, Mercedes-Benz is using the ESF 2009 research vehicle to reveal what its safety specialists are currently working on – with a time horizon that often extends well into the future.

The ESF 2009 is the first Experimental Safety Vehicle to be built by Mercedes-Benz since 1974. Like its historic predecessors, it illustrates trailblaz-ing innovations in the field of safety and makes the progress achieved clearly visible. These amazing but by no means crazy ideas include inflatable metallic sections which give more stability to structural components within fractions of a second, as well as the so-called "Braking Bag". This airbag housed within the vehicle floor is deployed when a crash is deemed to be unavoidable, and uses a friction coating to support the vehicle against the road surface. The ESF 2009 will be premiered on 15 June 2009, at the Enhanced Safety of Vehicles (ESV) Conference in Stuttgart.

"Safety is a central element of the Mercedes-Benz brand. In this respect we have been setting the pace in the market for almost 70 years. For the benefit of our customers and for road users in general. The ESF 2009 shows that we still have plenty of ideas and the absolute will, to lead the automobile industry in this field even in future", says Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of Daimler AG and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Cars.

The ESF 2009 was developed and built completely in the test vehicle workshops in Sindelfingen. This safety research vehicle based on the Mercedes S 400 HYBRID features more than a dozen safety innovations, most of which are fully functioning in demonstration mode. "With the ESF 2009, we have chosen this particular time to clearly demonstrate the innovative strength of Daimler. Any-body examining the ESF 2009 in detail will recognise that more safety and im-proved energy efficiency are not necessarily a contradiction in terms. We want to make progress in both fields with new, trailblazing ideas ", says Dr. Thomas Weber, the member of the Daimler Executive Board responsible for corporate research and development at Mercedes-Benz Cars.

The following five innovations on the basis of the S 400 Hybrid are among the highlights of the ESF 2009:

  • PRE-SAFE Structure: The inflatable metal structures save weight or in-crease the stability of structural components. When at rest, the metal sec-tion is in a folded state to save space. If its protective effect is required, a gas generator builds up an internal pressure of 10 to 20 bar within fractions of a second, causing the section to unfold for significantly more stability.
  • Braking Bag: This auxiliary brake accommodated in the vehicle floor is a new type of PRE-SAFE® component. If the sensor system concludes that an impact is unavoidable, the Braking Bag is deployed shortly before the crash and stabilises the car on the road surface by means of a friction coating. The vehicle's vertical acceleration increases the friction, and helps to decelerate the vehicle before the impact occurs.
  • Interactive Vehicle Communication: The ESF 2009 is able to communi-cate directly with other vehicles, or via relay stations. Using "ad hoc" net-works and WLAN radio technology, it is e.g. able to receive and transmit warnings of bad weather or obstacles in the road.
  • PRE-SAFE Pulse: This further development of PRE-SAFE® is able to reduce the forces acting on the torsos of the occupants during a lateral collision by around one third. It does this by moving them towards the centre of the vehicle by up to 50 millimetres as a precautionary measure. As an active restraint system, it uses the air chambers in the side bolsters of the seat backrests.
  • Spotlight lighting function: This partial LED main beam specifically illuminates potential hazards. If the infrared camera of Night View Assist PLUS e.g. detects deer at the roadside or pedestrians on the road, these can be briefly illuminated beyond the normal area covered by the main beams, as if by a spotlight.

Mercedes-Benz is also presenting an innovative PRE-SAFE Demonstrator at the 21st ESV Conference. For the first time this simulator uses a linear motor for this purpose, in order to accelerate the vehicle cabin to up to 16 km/h within a dis-tance of four metres before the impact occurs. The linear drive system, which is similar to that used by the Transrapid train, is freely programmable and also works in the opposite direction. This enables various acceleration profiles and also a rear-end collision to be demonstrated. The special feature of this system is that the 'vehicle occupants' experience the effect of the PRE-SAFE® functions live, e.g. belt pretensioning, NECK-PRO and the inflatable side bolsters of the seats.

Mercedes-Benz is continuing a longstanding tradition with the ESF 2009: for the ESV Safety Conferences held in 1971 to 1975, the safety experts in Stuttgart built more than 30 experimental vehicles and subjected them to crash tests to satisfy the visionary safety requirements of that time. Four of these ESFs (Experimental Safety Vehicles) were presented to the public, and many of the revolutionary ideas such as ABS or the airbag first entered series production at Mercedes-Benz.

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