Vehicle and road safety
Safety is the top priority at Daimler
Zero traffic fatalities by 2050 — that’s the target of Vision Zero, which is also a component of the current German federal government’s coalition agreement. In addition, plans call for the Vision Zero target to be utilized as a guiding principle 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 percent by 2030 as compared to 2020. The safety and assistance systems that we as a vehicle manufacturer have 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 toward our customers but toward all 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 ever more efficient systems. We plan to continue pursuing this approach in the future.
Our goals and measures on the road to accident-free driving
We have set ourselves ambitious goals as we continue on our road to accident-free driving, and we are systematically moving ahead to achieve them. We are aiming to:
- Further improve our accident-prevention systems — for example with Active Brake Assist.
- Make our vehicles even safer for vehicle occupants both during and after an accident — for example with appropriate vehicle structures, effective restraint systems, and systems that can engage after an accident.
- Make our vehicles safer for others — for example with pedestrian recognition systems and systems that protect other road users.
- Increase traffic safety in general — for example through safety initiatives such as SAFE ROADS and MobileKids.
- Use car-to-X communication in order to contribute to ensuring safety for all road users — for example within the framework of our pilot project in the Zollernalb district in Baden-Württemberg.
What we demand of ourselves: Laws and regulations are where we start
Legislation relating to vehicle and traffic safety has been significantly and continuously made more stringent over the last few decades. The EU, for example, has revised its regulation on the general safety of motor vehicles, which now stipulates that all new trucks and buses must be equipped with turning assistance systems as of mid-2024. The use of assistance systems that monitor the areas in front of and behind the vehicle will also be compulsory from then on. Our goal is to develop safety measures whose features go beyond what is required by current legislation and regulations. This means we also seek to define further requirements.
We utilize a holistic safety concept
We employ our holistic “Integral Safety” concept in our vehicle development activities. We first used this concept in the late 1990s to describe how we had divided the utilization of vehicle safety systems into four phases: “Safe driving,” “In a critical driving situation,” “During a crash,” and “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: Safe driving
Comfort assistance systems that make driving safer, assist drivers, and can help to prevent accidents. One example is the Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC system and Active Drive Assist for trucks.
- Phase 2: In a critical driving situation
Safety assistance 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, vans, and commercial vehicles. Daimler Trucks also uses the Active Brake Assist 5 emergency braking system.
- Phase 3: During a crash
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 for cars, which protects rear seats passengers.
- Phase 4: After a crash
Systems that can secure the accident scene, call for help or provide help themselves. One example is the Rescue Assist app that provides emergency services and rescue teams with important information about the vehicle that was involved in the accident.
Different vehicle types require different protection systems
Whether it be cars, vans, trucks or buses — different types of vehicles require different types of protection systems. This is why we utilize specific measures and safety systems in each vehicle segment.
Mercedes-Benz Cars is focusing on normal everyday driving with “Real-life safety”
“Real-life safety” is Mercedes-Benz’ safety philosophy. Mercedes-Benz analyzes real everyday driving situations. Here, all technical innovations are evaluated on the basis of the contribution they make to the vision of accident-free driving. Mercedes-Benz assistance and safety systems make driving safe and comfortable and ease the burden on drivers. In this manner, innovations from Mercedes-Benz also make partially automated driving (SAE Level 2) possible on numerous types of streets and roads. In addition, they ease the load on the driver during lane changes, enable vehicles to park in and drive out of tight parking spaces in an automated driving mode, and reduce the danger of a collision in a variety of situations. With intelligent systems, Mercedes-Benz is not only setting standards for automotive engineering but also taking another important step on the road to automated driving.
If the driver becomes inattentive or distracted, the driving assistance systems can react differently to the danger of a collision depending on the situation. Our Active Brake Assist system from Mercedes-Benz Cars, which comes as standard equipment, is a good example of this: Active Brake Assist is able to help prevent accidents with vehicles ahead and with pedestrians crossing the roadway. 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 is able to independently brake the vehicle when traveling at up to a certain speed. When the vehicle is traveling at urban traffic speeds, the system also reacts to stationary vehicles and pedestrians as well as cyclists crossing the roadway, thereby enhancing the safety of other road users as well.
Accident research and crash tests: How Mercedes-Benz Cars is improving vehicle safety
Mercedes-Benz has long been considered a safety pioneer — and still is, to this day. Mercedes-Benz conducted its first crash test as early as 1959, and for more than 50 years now, the brand’s safety experts in the in-house accident research department have been analyzing 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 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. This function reduces the risk of passing road users colliding with the driver’s door when he or she exits the vehicle. 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 Center 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 loads that are tested with the crashes are also defined in part on the basis of the results of Mercedes-Benz accident research activities.
X-ray vision for crash tests: Mercedes-Benz Cars is relying on the latest technologies
Mercedes-Benz’ vehicle safety unit is currently testing the use of X-ray technology in crash tests in cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Dynamics, Ernst-Mach-Institut (EMI) in Freiburg. Here, extremely sharp still images of specific areas of a vehicle are produced during the highly dynamic crash tests that are conducted. The ultrashort-duration X-ray technology employed enables Mercedes-Benz to examine how safety-relevant invisible vehicle components behave in a crash, which is something that was previously impossible to do in such detail. Vehicle safety experts then combine the data from the “X-ray crashes” with computer-aided simulation models to create highly dynamic 3D simulations. Mercedes-Benz believes this approach will make crash forecasts based on the simulation more precise and enable an even more targeted optimization of safety-relevant components — and the test results to date confirm this assumption. In the next step a linear accelerator will be used to increase the X-ray image recording speed. This particular technology is still in its early stages, and initial results are not expected until sometime in 2021 at the earliest.
Mercedes-Benz Cars is setting trends in the area of vehicle safety
Mercedes-Benz has been building test vehicles known as Experimental Safety Vehicles (ESF) since the 1970s in order to analyze the performance of its safety systems. The current 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. The new S-Class, for example, will be the world’s first production vehicle to offer frontal airbags for the rear occupants on both sides, in a system that was initially presented in the ESF 2019. In the event of a severe frontal collision, the airbags offer better protection for rear-seat occupants wearing seat belts — and for this reason the system received Daimler’s in-house Innovation and Pioneers Award. The ESF 2019 also contains innovations that can only be implemented over the medium term, as well as other innovations that should initially only be considered “food for thought.”
The ESF 2019, which is based on the Mercedes-Benz GLE (of the current series), can be driven both manually and in a highly automated mode (SAE-Level 4). As we move closer to automated driving, requirements for vehicle technologies and occupant protection systems are changing, and the ESF 2019 reflects these new demands relating to future mobility. The primary issue addressed in the research vehicle is all-round driver safety: When the ESF 2019 is driving in a highly automated mode, the steering wheel and pedal cluster are retracted to reduce the risk of injury during a crash, for example.
Trust will play an important role in gaining social acceptance for automated vehicles — people must immediately and intuitively be able to recognize what the vehicle intends to do. Cooperative communication with the vehicle’s surroundings is correspondingly important — it’s a question of how the automated vehicle communicates with other road users. Among other things, the ESF 2019 indicates when it is allowing a pedestrian to cross the road in front of it or when it is yielding the right of way to another vehicle approaching from the side. In addition, the vehicle can warn other road users of potential danger even when it is parked.
High-voltage systems and batteries are comprehensively secured in electric vans
As is the case with fuel tanks in vehicles with combustion engines, special attention is paid in electric vehicles to safety aspects relating to batteries and other electrical components. A high degree of conceptual safety is guaranteed to begin with by virtue of the battery’s especially protected installation position under the vehicle floor. However, Mercedes-Benz Vans also utilizes additional safety specifications that go beyond the legal requirements and increase the intrinsic safety. For example, special shielding in the vehicle underbodies of our electric vans — the eVito, eSprinter, and Mercedes-Benz EQV (combined electrical consumption: 26.4–26.3 kWh/100 km; combined CO2 emissions: 0 g/km)1,2 — make our batteries particularly highly resistant to mechanical damage from external sources. The drivetrain, high-voltage battery, and all 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 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 an alternative high-voltage disconnect device that emergency teams can use to deactivate the power supply manually. The location of the alternative high-voltage disconnect device varies depending on the vehicle in question and can be found in each vehicle’s rescue sheet.
Vans: Assistance systems now make the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter even safer
The systems installed in the Sprinter include the radar-based Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC and Active Lane Keeping Assist. The Crosswind Assist is standard; this makes journeys safer, especially at higher speeds. The range of assistance systems is rounded out by the modular Parking Package, whose numerous sensors and reversing camera images on the multimedia display make parking and pulling out of spaces easier than ever. A Parking Package with a 360-degree camera is also available. This package includes four cameras that enable the multimedia display to show an all-round, virtual bird’s-eye view of the van. The Blind Spot Assist system, which is available as an option, monitors the areas alongside and at the sides behind the vehicle.
Vans: Mercedes-Benz Vito sets new standards for safety once again
Mercedes-Benz equipped the new Vito with two additional safety and assistance systems in the reporting year: Active Brake Assist and Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC. Plans also call for a digital rearview mirror to be introduced in 2021. This mirror transfers images from a camera installed in the rear window to a display on the rearview mirror. This ensures that the driver’s view of the area behind the vehicle is not obstructed by headrests, rear passengers, or anything else between the driver and the rear window.
With this new addition, the Vito will in the future have a total of 13 systems that ensure greater safety and comfort on the road. Here Mercedes-Benz is building on its history of setting high safety standards, as the Vito panel van was one of the first vans to be equipped with driver and front-passenger airbags and seat belt warning systems for the driver’s and co-driver’s seat as standard equipment. Moreover, the Crosswind Assist and Attention Assist systems have been standard equipment in the Vito for five years now.
Daimler Trucks & Buses drives forward commercial vehicle accident research
The top priority at Daimler Trucks & Buses for all model series is to completely prevent accidents or at the very least mitigate their consequences. For this reason, new and more effective safety and assistance systems for the trucks are continuously being developed and existing systems are being optimized as needed. Commercial vehicle accident research plays a key role here, as accident analyses lay the foundation for achieving improvements to the vehicles. This approach has a long tradition: Since 1972, the commercial vehicle accident researchers at Mercedes-Benz Trucks have been examining selected accidents with trucks from Mercedes-Benz throughout Germany and documenting data on how these accidents occurred and proceeded, as well as information on the vehicles involved and the damage they incurred.
We developed and introduced many of our solutions before such systems became legally required, one example being Active Brake Assist. In line with our goal of preventing even more accidents, we continuously further develop our systems and are increasingly installing them in our vehicles.
Continuous further development of assistance systems at Mercedes-Benz Trucks
Active Brake Assist 5 (ABA5) — the fifth generation of our braking assistance system and the latest solution from Mercedes-Benz Trucks — uses a combination of a radar and a camera system. Along with performing emergency braking applications as previous systems did, at speeds of up to 50 km/h ABA5 can also react to moving pedestrians3. If the system detects such a situation, ABA5 emits visual signals and acoustic warnings. If the driver fails to react, ABA5 can automatically initiate a brake application and also bring the vehicle to a standstill if necessary.3
The new Actros offers even greater safety with its optional Active Drive Assist system for partially automated driving (SAE Level 2); the MirrorCam system, which replaces exterior mirrors; and the Sideguard Assist system, which can detect pedestrians and cyclists in the vicinity of the vehicle. Since 2016, the Mercedes-Benz Sideguard Assist (S1R), which is fully integrated into the vehicle architecture, has been available ex works for many models of the Actros, Arocs, and Econic model series, and since 2019 it has also been possible to retrofit it in numerous trucks from those model series (for vehicles from model year 2017 on).
For the Atego and those Actros, Antos, or Arocs model series that cannot currently be equipped with the Mercedes-Benz Sideguard Assist S1R (either fully integrated or as a retrofit), Mercedes-Benz Genuine Accessories has been offering Sideguard Assist basic as a retrofit solution since the middle of 2020.
Mercedes-Benz Trucks is planning to begin introducing Active Sideguard Assist (ASGA) as an alternative to Sideguard Assist S1R in June 2021. This new driving assistance system can do more than just warn truck drivers of moving cyclists or pedestrians detected on the passenger side, as it can also independently brake the vehicle at a turning speed of up to 20 km/h — down to a complete standstill3. Mercedes-Benz Trucks is the world’s first truck manufacturer to offer such a system with an active braking feature.
Mercedes-Benz Trucks has also further developed the Active Drive Assist (ADA) system for partially automated driving (SAE Level 2). The latest generation of ADA 2 should be launched in June 2021. The system can initiate an emergency stop if it detects that the driver is no longer reacting to the driving situation at hand — e.g. if the driver is experiencing a medical emergency. Before that, ADA 2 will visually and acoustically prompt the driver to take hold of the steering wheel. If after a period of 60 seconds the driver fails to respond to repeated warnings by moving the steering wheel, accelerating, braking or operating vehicle systems — on the steering wheel, for example — the truck can slow down and brake to a standstill. While doing so the truck warns vehicles behind by turning on the hazard lights. When the truck comes to a standstill, the system can automatically engage the new electronic parking brake. The truck is also unlocked to allow emergency services and first responders to gain access to the interior and the driver in the case of a medical emergency. The initiated emergency stop can also be aborted at any time if the driver takes control of the vehicle again.
Trucks: Freightliner Cascadia with Active Brake Assist
More and more safety systems are also being installed at Daimler Trucks North America. The Detroit Assurance 5.0 safety package, which includes Active Brake Assist 5 (ABA5), is standard in the Freightliner Cascadia, for example. Adaptive cruise control, which can be engaged starting at 0 km/h, can automatically keep the truck a safe distance from vehicles ahead — even in stop-and-go traffic. These and many other systems, such as Sideguard Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, and Steering Assist, make the Cascadia the first production truck in North America to be equipped with partially automated driving features (SAE Level 2).
Daimler Trucks Asia is a pioneer in vehicle safety
Daimler Trucks is also helping to improve traffic safety in India with vehicles from its BharatBenz brand. Trucks in the Indian market are normally based on cowl chassis, which are delivered ex works without a vehicle body. This creates major safety issues. Trucks from BharatBenz are therefore offered with complete cabs, the ABS anti-lock braking system, and other standard safety features.
Safety is also paramount at Daimler Truck’s FUSO subsidiary in Japan. For example, the Aero Queen and Aero Ace coaches come with safety systems such as Active Sideguard Assist (ASA), which in Japan has a warning function but no emergency braking feature. The touring coaches are also equipped with Active Brake Assist 4 and 5. These touring coaches and the Aero Star city bus are also equipped with the Emergency Driver Stop System (EDSS), which can enable passengers to safely bring the bus to a complete stop by pressing a button in the event that the driver loses consciousness or is no longer capable of safely operating the vehicle. FUSO is also one of the first commercial vehicle manufacturers in Japan to install the Active Attention Assist system in many touring coaches as standard equipment. Active Attention Assist issues a warning at the first signs that the driver is becoming fatigued or inattentive — for example if the system’s camera detects that the driver’s eyes are closed or that he or she is looking toward the side of the vehicle for an extended period of time.
Assistance systems adapted to specific requirements make city and inter-city buses safer
Buses also need to be equipped with special protection systems that meet the stringent safety requirements for bus transport. The safety concept employed at Daimler Buses is made up of many components. This concept centers around vehicle and application-specific safety systems that improve active and passive safety for buses.
Specialized systems designed to address the specific challenges associated with city traffic are particularly needed in urban settings. One example is Preventive Brake Assist, the first-ever active braking assistance system for use in city buses. The system warns of a potential collision with moving pedestrians or stationary or moving objects and can automatically brake the bus within its system limits if there is a risk of collision.
Turning maneuvers in cities also present potential dangers. That’s why Mercedes-Benz and Setra are the world’s first two bus brands to offer Sideguard Assist with pedestrian detection. The system can inform the driver when a relevant object is located in the monitoring or warning zone of the bus. This can be a person or a stationary obstacle such as a bollard, for example. The driver is then issued a visual and tactile warning if there is danger of a collision.
Active Brake Assist 5 has been available as an option in the new Mercedes-Benz Intouro inter-city bus series since the beginning of 2021, and the braking assistance system will also be installed in touring coaches in the future.
We are making people more aware of traffic safety issues
Because we are a socially responsible company, we actively address important social issues. A variety of projects that focus on traffic safety are also important to us in this regard.
Interactive roadshow presents traffic safety up close
As early as 2015, Mercedes-Benz launched its SAFE ROADS initiative to increase traffic safety awareness in India. The brand later introduced the initiative in China as well. The interactive roadshow presents traffic safety up close with pictures, exhibits, and expert reports that Mercedes-Benz uses to provide traffic safety information to local residents and increase their awareness of the importance of road safety — especially in countries that still record high numbers of traffic accidents. Since 2015, a “SAFE ROADS India Summit” has been held every two years with representatives from transport agencies and various interest groups. The most recent summit took place in 2019. No other traffic safety awareness events were held in 2020 due to the covid-19 pandemic.
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 Daimler AG established its 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.
OMNIplus bus driver training throughout Germany
OMNIplus, the service brand for Mercedes-Benz and Setra buses, has been providing training to bus drivers throughout Germany for 28 years now. An average of more than 700 drivers of touring coaches as well as city and school buses participate in OMNIplus courses each year, and around 20,000 people have successfully completed the training courses to date. Participants learn to recognize and avoid dangerous situations in good time, as well as what to do in the event of an accident. They also receive training on technical aspects — for example principles of responsible vehicle maintenance.
How we assess the effectiveness of our management approach
Systematic accident research forms the basis for the ability to prevent accidents in an even more targeted manner in the future and offer better protection to vehicle occupants. Our goal is to expand our accident research activities. For example, in addition to studying actual accidents involving current Mercedes-Benz models, our accident research team also analyzes accident data from around the world. Research projects with external partners are also becoming more important. Such projects seek to define standard procedures that can be used to predict the safety potential of future protection systems. We also want to work more closely with existing and new partners in order to continually improve and expand the ways accident and traffic data are collected and analyzed.
Mercedes-Benz car models repeatedly earn top marks in safety tests conducted by independent institutes. Of particular note in this regard are the marks 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 and the GLE received the IIHS “2020 TOP SAFETY PICK+” distinction for the 2020 model year.
During the reporting year, the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) issued ratings for driving assistance systems in various vehicle models for the first time. The current GLE with its driver assistance package received a rating of “very good.” This means that the experts at NCAP believe that among the vehicles in the competitive field, the GLE offers a system with a very good balance as well as a very high degree of effectiveness.
We also received awards for our trucks in 2020. The Actros was named International Truck of the Year 2020 — in large part due to its outstanding safety systems. The award is presented annually by the International Truck of the Year organization to the truck that makes the biggest contribution to road transport innovation in terms of profitability, emissions, safety, and comfort.
1 The electricity consumption and range were determined on the basis of Commission Regulation (EC) No. 692/2008. The electricity consumption and range are dependent on the vehicle configuration.
2 The actual range is also dependent on individual driving style, road and traffic conditions, outside temperature, use of air conditioning/heating systems etc. and may therefore differ.
3 Within the framework of the system limits/physical limits