Milestone reached: construction having begun in July 2013, some 350 guests were today present at the topping-out ceremony for the world’s most advanced crash test facility. The new test centre measures 270 by 170 metres with an internal, pillarless test arena – the heart of the crash facility – measuring 90 by 90 metres to allow even complex junction/pre-accident situations to be recreated in future. Consequently, the area of the test arena is considerably larger than a normal football pitch. The facility will cost triple-digit millions of euros, with the commencement of crash testing scheduled for autumn 2016.
“As a safety pioneer, Mercedes-Benz has played a key role in ensuring that crash tests have today become an established part of the global automotive industry. Even in the age of computer simulation, crash tests remain indispensable, guaranteeing the high standards of passive safety in our vehicles”, says Thomas Merker, Director for Body and Safety at Mercedes-Benz Cars Development. “The new Technology Centre for Vehicle Safety (TFS) represents a continuation of this pioneering role. The world’s most advanced crash test facility will enable us in future to carry out all crash tests on our own premises – not just more crash tests due to the growing product range, but also crash tests with future, new configurations”.
The design of the new facility allows for collisions with many different angles of impact, including junction collisions, while also taking into account the particular crash-related requirements of vehicles with alternative drives. In addition, Mercedes-Benz aims to use the TFS to further investigate the potential of PRE-SAFE® and driver assistance systems in the event of a crash. To be able to recreate the pre-accident phase, the facility will include an automated driving system for such vehicles. It is also designed for crash tests with large commercial vehicles. A sled test unit will also allow the testing of individual components such as restraint systems.
In total, the TFS will comprise an area of 55,000 square metres. At the heart of the complex is the 90 by 90 metre, totally pillarless test arena. The structural features also include temperature control using the waste heat from the adjacent climatic wind tunnels. Rotating crash blocks with a different solid barrier on each side for a particular crash test configuration will in future shorten the set-up times while making crash testing even more efficient. The same applies to vehicle measuring, which will be partially automated in future, with the vehicle being moved on a turntable in front of the camera. Likewise, new digital measuring technology in the dummies with just one data cable will take over from the previous analogue technology.
The company is investing triple-digit millions of euros in the entire facility. The new TFS will in future allow even closer integration between research, development, planning and production at the Sindelfingen site. Located in the direct vicinity, a new driving simulator, new climatic wind tunnels and a new aeroacoustics wind tunnel were taken into service in 2010, 2011 and 2013, respectively.
55 years of crash testing: Mercedes-Benz as safety pioneer
The first crash test in the history of Mercedes-Benz took place on 10 September 1959 on open ground close to the plant in Sindelfingen, with a test car being driven head-on into a solid obstacle. Opening a new chapter in safety research at Mercedes-Benz, this now made it possible for the crash behaviour of both vehicles and occupants to be studied under realistic conditions using test cars and dummies. In the decades that followed, Mercedes-Benz has consistently set new crash-testing standards that have been adopted across the industry, thereby resulting in permanent improvements to vehicle safety in the interests of all road users.
Despite being little used in the early years, from the 1960s onwards crash testing increasingly established itself as a reliable tool for the optimisation and testing of vehicle safety. The thorough crash testing regime at Mercedes-Benz covers not just cars, but also vans, commercial vehicles and touring coaches. Mercedes-Benz opened its first indoor crash facility in 1973.
The company’s crash tests always exceed the number and complexity of the legally required tests. The current development programme for new ready-to-produce models comprises around 15,000 realistic crash test simulations and over 150 crash tests. These include not just the approximately 40 different impact configurations required for ratings and worldwide vehicle homologation, but also especially exacting crash tests such as the roof-drop test that are carried out in addition by the company.