Prof. Dr.-Ing. Rodolfo Schöneburg was born on 30 October 1959, studied aerospace engineering and obtained his doctorate at the Technical University of Berlin. He holds an honorary professorship at the College of Technology and Business Economics (HTW) in Dresden. He has been Head of Vehicle Safety, Durability and Corrosion Protection at Mercedes-Benz since April 1999. It was in 2002, under his aegis, that the preventive occupant protection system PRE-SAFE® entered series production as the start of a new era in vehicle safety at Mercedes-Benz. In the interview, Prof. Schöneburg comments on the Experimental Safety Vehicle ESF 2019.
Professor Schöneburg, ten years ago, when the ESF 2009 appeared, you said that Mercedes-Benz has many more ideas for new safety systems, and especially in the areas of passive safety and the preventive protection system PRE‑SAFE®. Does this still apply in 2019, is Mercedes-Benz still not short of ideas?
Schöneburg: We are certainly not short of ideas for safety innovations. And that is precisely one of the reasons for building the ESF 2019. We have done so to show the ideas and concepts our safety experts at Mercedes-Benz are currently researching and developing for further improvements in safety. And as was already seen with the ESF 2009, this is more than just an exercise. Many of the ideas presented with it have meanwhile entered series production at Mercedes-Benz.
Can you give us an example please?
Certainly. For example the partial high beam now implemented in Adaptive High Beam Assist Plus. Or the beltbag now available for the S-Class: this inflatable seat belt can lower the risk of injury to rear passengers during a frontal impact, by reducing the load on the ribcage. And what was called PRE-SAFE® Pulse in the ESF 2009 is now available for the E-Class, CLS and GLE as PRE-SAFE® Impulse Side: in the event of an impending side impact, this system is preventively able to move the driver or front passenger a short distance away from the danger area. Together with the familiar PRE-SAFE® protection concepts for frontal and rear-end collisions, it creates something of a virtual crumple zone around the vehicle. We call this PRE-SAFE® 360°.
The original concept of the crumple zone as an area specifically designed to deform in an impact was invented by the Mercedes-Benz safety pioneer Béla Barényi. What exactly do you mean by a virtual crumple zone?
The purpose of the physical crumple zone is to absorb energy during an accident, to protect the occupants. The virtual crumple zone covers the time from the moment when the vehicle reacts to its sensors to the moment of the impact. If an object or other road user enters the virtual crumple zone, many valuable measures can already be implemented to protect the occupants and accident partner. This is possible with PRE-SAFE® and PRE-SAFE® Impulse systems, but also with the help of conventional restraint systems.
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