"Here at West 74th Street and Central Park West, Henry H. Bliss dismounted from a streetcar and was struck and knocked unconscious by an automobile on the evening of September 13, 1899. When Mr. Bliss, a New York real estate man, died the next morning from his injuries, he became the first recorded motor vehicle fatality in the Western Hemisphere. This sign was erected to remember Mr. Bliss on the centennial of his untimely death and to promote safety on our streets and highways." (New York City)
An alarming fact: since the automobile became a part of our daily life, an estimated 20 million people have died in car accidents. In the 1930s, vehicle bodies were rigid and inherently stable with no crumple zone, so any impact force had a direct, undiminished effect on any other road users involved. In the late 1950s, the vehicle manufacturers maintained that there was "simply no chance of surviving" a road accident. This shortcoming is what triggered motor vehicle accident research. And provided EDAG with the incentive to make the mobility of the future a good deal safer.
Today, EDAG has one of the world's largest test laboratories for pedestrian protection. Vehicle safety experts work there on one of the most important elements of overall automotive development. "I know of no other test laboratory of this size in the automotive sector. Five state of the art electronically operated pedestrian test systems and further items of test equipment are used to examine the effects of collisions of motor vehicles with pedestrians, and do everything possible to avoid them in the future. Or at least moderate the effects," is how our expert Thomas Kerschbaum, Head of Passive Safety & Pedestrian Protection at EDAG's Munich site puts it.
The Munich team aims to build on its previous success: in addition to the five test systems, a second climatic chamber has now been invested in, to enable them to react with greater speed and flexibility to the wishes and requirements of our customers.
One further key advantage is the fact that the equipment can be used for different customers. As in other areas, the auto manufacturers call for strict confidentiality with regard to pedestrian protection, to keep technological details secret. The layout of the approx. 1000 m² test laboratory is ideally designed to meet customers' confidentiality requirements. It consists of 3 separate sections, each with its own entrances and exits. The addition of a second climatic chamber has now solved the problem of the final bottleneck.
"From the results of the simulations we carry out, we are able to draw conclusions, and these are then used by the vehicle manufacturers in the development of the corresponding vehicle equipment. In this way, the automotive industry can prepare itself as early as possible for increasingly stringent legal directives, to ensure that the vehicles meet requirements for MOT approval," explains Thomas Kerschbaum, who has been working on the subject of safety for over 10 years.
He is certain that pedestrian protection can and must be improved by a combination of active and passive safety systems. Even today, passive and active safety are already merging into one another. Passive systems ensure that the surface of the vehicle will yield, so reducing the severity of injuries in the event of an accident. Active systems recognise the danger, reduce the speed and mitigate the effects of an impact.
Active safety features in the car include a good brake system, ABS and ESP (electronic stability program). Further vehicle safety equipment includes, for instance, traction control system (TCS) and brake assist (BA). Key elements of passive safety are crumple zones, seat belts and airbags.
According to CARE – European community road accident database – accidents involving pedestrians are still the second most frequent cause of death on our roads. Over a third of all fatal accidents in built-up areas are accidents involving pedestrians. As a result of the strong commitment of the automobile industry, the number of fatal pedestrian accidents was reduced by 37 % between 1996 and 2005. Accidents involving motor vehicles and pedestrians are usually very serious - and just as difficult to influence. The vehicle fronts are too varied, just as the pedestrians themselves - children and the elderly, women and men - are also so varied. That there is still potential for improvement in modern vehicle designs is a well-known fact at EDAG.
We are aware of this socially relevant task. A task which will, in the end, save lives. It will not be possible to prevent all accidents, even if cameras, radar, infrared light or other technical aids do help the driver to see pedestrians much earlier. This is exactly where EDAG comes in: we are already addressing the matter of "integral safety", i.e. the fusion of active and passive safety. So as in the end not only to protect the vehicle, but also to make the roads safer for everyone to use.