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Mercedes - Accident research 1

Do you know what that is? We can already reveal this much: it was built within the Daimler Group and was also used there. A contemporary witness to this story is Ernst Fiala at the beginning of the chapter on accident research in the book 'That's how much car a person needs' by Alfred Prokesch.

Fiala was an assistant at the TU Vienna from 1954. He had just finished his doctoral thesis on the deformation of tires depending on load and air pressure when cornering and braking. He soon switched to Daimler-Benz and reports on the beginnings of safety research there.

As was usual at the time, there wasn't much there, apart from the famous inventor Béla Barényi and Werner Breitschwerdt, later head of development and chairman of the board for four years. Two young graduate engineers, almost the same age, who were supposed to scientifically investigate safety.

Let's leave the first, clumsy steps aside and start straight away with the infernal machine above. This is a hot water rocket and its concept came from a certain Professor Eugen Singer from Messerschmidt-Bölkow-Blohm. He generously made his concept available to Daimler.

What was it about? Ultimately, the aim was to steer the entire simulated accident into mathematical lines. It's nice to drive cars against solid or padded walls, but such attempts must be reproducible. By the way, initially testing the durability of the roof turned out to be particularly difficult.

With the spiral that the car turned at higher speed, the car sometimes landed on one side or the other, or not at all on the roof. Until someone came up with the idea of hanging the car with the roof at the bottom and then letting it fall.

You won't believe it, but half a meter height and two defined angles to the front and to the right were enough to test the stability of the driver's side the roof pillar. As I said, they stiffened it or later used higher-strength steels and then determined exactly how much less it had buckled.

And something like that was probably what the two engineers had in mind. There were no initial values, but 100 km/h was initially thought to be a speed at which the occupants still had to be sufficiently protected. We know better today. How good that the two of them started at 50 km/h.

So what was this hot water rocket used for? It was probably the cheapest way to bring a vehicle to a precisely preset speed in a very short distance. In principle, all you needed was a container in which you heated a certain amount of water to around 260°C.

This could be done electrically on the apparatus above. The corresponding gray power socket is shown on the right. Then you pulled out the plug and opened the valve on the left side. Please don't hold on to anything, because water vapor now flowed out of the funnel and pushed the vehicle to the right (recoil principle).

The entire device is said to have weighed only 200 kg, of course without the rail, which was necessary because the rocket rose into the air, as is usual with such devices. However, when connected to the ground, speeds beyond 50 km/h were now possible due to the amount of water and the dimensions of the opening valve and nozzle.

Later, a much larger rocket was built in order to be able to test crash barriers in the middle of the highways using trucks traveling at speeds of even 100 km/h. These are said to have proven useful on a line of posts on both sides because they rise up towards the vehicle and cannot be lowered as much on the opposite side.

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