Technology Centre for Vehicle Safety (TFS): Numerous test facilities for safety innovations

Sep 9, 2019

Opened in November 2016, the TFS is part of the development centre in Sindelfingen and one of the world's most modern crash test centres. Mercedes-Benz has a wide range of test facilities at the TFS, so as to remain the trailblazer in vehicle safety. New ideas and safety concepts as shown in the ESF 2019 can be developed and validated there.

The flexible and efficient crash track concept at the TFS not only provides facilities for classic crash tests, but also creates the conditions for new test procedures: Car2Car collisions at all angles, the evaluation of PRE-SAFE®, automated manoeuvres followed by a crash, crash tests with trucks, electric vehicles and other alternative drive systems. All in all, around 70 different crash test configurations are possible. There is also a sled test facility to test components, and new methods of measuring vehicles before and after the crash.

Mercedes-Benz traditionally conducts more, and more demanding crash tests than legislation and ratings require. The numerous test facilities at the TFS assist the company in this pacemaking function. Mercedes-Benz is working on approximating the crash test in the hall even more closely to what happens in real accidents. For example, PRE-SAFE® systems are also to be assessed even more precisely when e.g. emergency braking or evasive action precedes the actual impact.

The TFS offers the space necessary for this, with the longest crash track measuring more than 200 m. A total of five crash blocks are available, one of them freely movable and other rotatable around the vertical axis. For efficient operation, these two crash blocks are preconfigured with a different barrier on each of the four sides. By virtue of a mobile partitioning system, the complex allows up to four crash tracks to be in operation at the same time. Thanks to the operating concept and flexible layout of the facility, around 900 crash tests can be conducted each year. There is also capacity for around 1700 sled tests per year.

The large, pillar-free area is e.g. suitable for testing pre-crash systems during the pre-accident phase, or for vehicle-to-vehicle crashes. The vehicle being tested can be powered by a traction cable in the conventional way. Work is also under way to allow test vehicles to move on a freely programmable basis under their own power, i.e. without the use of a traction cable.

Numerous tests are necessary to develop and fine-tune restraint systems such as seat belts, airbags or child seats - the development maturity of the components is examined in sled tests conducted before the overall vehicle test. Sled-testing does not damage an entire vehicle each time, a vehicle that is very expensive in the early stages and only available in small numbers. Instead a reinforced body with the necessary interior fittings is mounted on a sled and accelerated to simulate the effect of e.g. a frontal crash. At the TFS, these tests can be conducted on a total of four different test sleds capable of acceleration/deceleration with g-forces from slightly more than 0 to approx. 80 g, and even up to 120 g for some component tests.

The new building: perfectly level floor as a major challenge

The new TFS was a highly complex construction project costing in the hundreds of millions. Initial planning began more than ten years ago, with building work starting in the autumn of 2013. The topping-out ceremony was on 12 May 2015 and the first productive crash test was carried out on 30 September 2016.

The challenges included the stipulation that no pillars were allowed in the large crash test hall, and that the floor of the crash tracks had to be perfectly level. The structural features also include temperature control using the waste heat from the adjacent climatic wind tunnels.

The dimensions and materials used when constructing the TFS are impressive: The unsupported, roofed area of the crash hall measures 90 x 90 metres - much larger than a football pitch. Over 7000 tonnes of steel were installed, around as much as the Eiffel Tower. The 36,000 cubic metres of concrete used may be visualised as an approx. 40-kilometre long queue of concrete mixer trucks.