Wednesday 31st May 1972
The Mercedes-Benz ESF-05, the third of five experimental safety vehicles, was unveiled to the public.
As the 1960s came to a close, the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) was growing alarmed at the increasing number of fatalities on U.S. roadways. In response, the DOT began a program in 1968, urging automakers to develop Experimental Safety Vehicles (ESVs) and hosting the “Technical Conference of the Enhanced Safety of Vehicles.” Two years later, in 1970, the first standards for occupant protection in ESVs were set, and they included daunting front, rear and side impact standards. Mercedes-Benz was one of several manufacturers to rise to this challenge, and over the next four years the Stuttgart-based automaker would construct 35 ESVs (ESFs in German), based upon five experimental models, all in the name of improving traffic safety. ESF 05 was designed to withstand a frontal impact against a fixed barrier or pole of 80 KPH (49.6 MPH); a side impact against a fixed barrier or pole of 25 KPH (15.5 MPH); a rear impact of 80 KPH (49.6 MPh); and a vertical drop of 0.5 meters (19.7 inches). Inside, occupants benefited from five three-point seat belts, and the fronts were mechanized to automate use. Each belt system was equipped with force limiters to reduce injury, and both front and rear seat passengers were further protected by airbags. Rear seat airbags, which protected the outboard passengers only, were mounted in the oversize front seats, and to maintain rear legroom, the wheelbase was increased by 100 millimeters (3.9 inches). Finally, all potential impact areas within the cabin were covered with impact-absorbing polyurethane foam, adding one more layer of protections for front and rear passengers.