RadioBDC Logo
| Listen Live
< Back to front page Text size +

A Mercedes airbag for the undercarriage

Posted by Keith Griffin  March 8, 2010 01:33 PM

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article



Accident prevention has evolved so much in modern automobiles that Mercedes-Benz is now focusing its efforts on diminishing the effects of collisions. The most innovative safety advancement on the horizon may be the braking bag — an airbag for your car that inflates 80 to 100 milliseconds before collision to dilute the physics of impact.

The German manufacturer detailed upcoming advancements in its traveling safety showcase, the ESF 2009 (a Mercedes S400 hybrid), for the automotive media at its U.S. headquarters in Montvale, N.J.

Among the ESF 2009's safety features, not yet available, are: the braking bag; gas-fired metal guardrails in the side doors; an innovative child safety seat that is open in the back; interior airbags to protect occupants in rollovers (i.e. so they don't land on each other); and, a shoulder-strap belt bag for rear-seat passengers.

"The idea behind the braking bag is to decelerate [the car] faster than you can," said Michael Fehring, ESF project manager. The braking bag is installed between the front axle carrier and the underbody paneling, according to Mercedes. When a collision is imminent, the bag, coated with rubber and steel for friction, inflates.

That serves to slow the car down and at the same time lifts it approximately three inches, reducing the diving effect normally associated with emergency braking. The vertical boost makes the car heavier for faster deceleration and helps line it up better with the car it is striking for a better disbursement of energy, according to David Selke, senior Mercedes staff engineer. He said that creates a virtual crumple zone that is six to eight inches longer.

Another advantage of the braking bag, Mercedes officials said, is the vertical movement also makes the vehicle's restraint systems more efficient. The seats move toward the occupants by about an inch, which allows the belt tensioners to grab tighter.

Fehring would not say when the braking bag would come to market.

Keith Griffin is the used car guide at and the founder of the Internet Car and Truck of the Year award.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article


About Boston Overdrive reports the latest trends, auto shows and wrings out the newest cars in our city's hellish maze — and across the great roads of New England.
Follow Cars on Facebook



Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
In the garage: Hyundai Sante Fe, Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible
Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
In the garage: 1968 Buick Riviera, 1996 Buick Roadmaster, 1974 Honda CB450
Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
In the garage: Mazda 5, Dodge Neon
George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
In the garage: Lifted 1999 Jeep Cherokee
archives racing coverage

Dale Earnhardt Jr. shocked by Juan Montoya's departure from No. 42
By Michael Vega, Globe Staff LOUDON, N.H. --- Dale Earnhardt Jr., like most of his NASCAR brethren, was surprised to learn Tuesday that Juan Pablo...

More on Cars