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It may be the Volvo name which is most associated with automotive safety in the consumer's mind, but it was, in fact, Mercedes-Benz which first developed the most basic tenet of passenger car safety - the so-called Crumple Zone.

It was an inventor Bela Barenyi who pioneered the idea that passengers were safer in a vehicle that was designed to easily absorb the energy from an impact and keep that energy away from the people inside the cabin.

Barenyi devised a system of placing the car's components in a certain configuration that kept the kinetic energy in the event of a crash away from a bubble protecting the car's occupants. Mercedes obtained a patent from Barenyi's invention way back in 1952 and the technology was first introduced into production cars in 1959 in the Mercedes-Benz 220, 220 S and 220 SE models.

For example, Barenyi arranged the steering column and other heavy components so that they would not form blocks that would heighten the impact on the cabin. The system was designed to have the car's body crumple around the cabin, absorbing the worst of the kinetic shock of impact.

Design changes affected the inside of the cabin as well, with the dashboard and controls all made with soft-edges and made to yield easily in a crash.

Those Mercedes models were also some of the first to introduce over-the-shoulder seat-belts.

The inventor/engineer Barenyi is credited with about 2,500 patents, more than half as many as the more famous inventor, Thomas Edison.


Gallery: Mercedes Innovation: The Crumple Zone in 1952

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