It was in 1885 when Carl Benz developed the world’s first automobile. It was a three-wheeled patent motor car that was totally a self-contained, self-propelled vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine. Benz had installed a high-speed one-cylinder four-stroke engine horizontally in a uniquely designed chassis with a top speed at 16 km/h. The patent motor car made its debut on the 3rd July 1886 on Ringstrasse in Mannheim that would later create a name known by all in the world of automobiles.
130 years later, the most advanced production vehicle in the world, the E-Class, makes its appearance at the Detroit Motor Show. It sets brand new standards in terms of efficiency, safety, and automobile intelligence. In honour of their 130th Anniversary, we look back at some of the highlights of Mercedes-Benz throughout the years.
In 1878 Karl Benz developed the two-stroke engine, and in the following year managed to obtain the patent for it – which signaled a revolutionary leap in engine technology and the motor would then go on to be used in car manufacturing in the western world up to the 1980s. Today, it is still commonly used to power a variety items such as motorcycles, scooters, outboard motors, snowmobiles and lawnmowers.
In 1885 Gottlieb Daimler was awarded the German patent for a single-cylinder vertical engine, dubbed the Standuhr engine. Together with his long-time business partner Wilhelm Maybach, they fitted the engine onto a two-wheel frame, thus inventing the first internal combustion motorcycle.
The following year saw what was hailed by some as “the first car”. Karl Benz was awarded the German patent for the three-wheeled, self-propelled Motorwagen. The Benz Patent-Motorwagen was the first three-wheeled automobile and had its engine mounted in the rear. Benz himself designed the steel-spoked wheels and solid rubber design.
In 1888, Bertha Benz – the wife of Karl Benz – became the first female driver in history by making the first-ever cross-country drive with the Benz Patent-Motorwagen No 3.
Early to mid 1900s
In 1990 the First Mercedes was born when Emil Jellinek commissioned Wilhelm Maybach to design a revolutionary new sports car – the Mercedes 35 HP, which was named after his daughter. Jellink had famously stated “I don’t want a car for today or tomorrow, it will be the car of the day after tomorrow.” It then made history in the world of automobiles by winning every category of the Nice Race Week, which prompted the Secretary General of the Automobile of France Paul Meyan to say “We have entered the Mercedes era.”
In 1902 DMG (Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft) registered the Mercedes brand name in June. This would become the trademark for DMG’s entire automobile production.
In developing the logo that we all know and can recognise in an instant, the sons of Gottlieb Daimler, Paul and Adolph Daimler recalled a drawing of a three-pointed star that their father had sent to their mother on a postcard, and proposed using this simple yet elegant symbol. The three points signified the company’s growing dominance over transport used for land, sea, and air.
1958 marked a historical day for the company – it saw the regimen of crash-testing that was carried out as part of the development of every new Mercedes-Benz model. This was to ensure safe design standards.
In 1963, Mercedes-Benz introduced the gated shifter, a notched layout of the gear and was first introduced in the Mercedes-Benz SL.
From the late 80s to the early 90s, green technology and protecting the environment was highlighted in Mercedes-Benz. They introduced catalytic converters in 1986 which treats toxic pollutants and renders them less harmful, before final emission through the exhaust. In addition, Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) was commonly used as a refrigerant, but posed as a threat to the ozone layer. CFC use was phased out as part of the Montreal Protocol, and Mercedes-Benz achieved CFC-free status in 1991 for its air conditioning units and its entire manufacturing process – making it one of the first automotive manufacturers to do so.
In 1996, the Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class model saw the introduction of the Vario roof – a hydraulically operated three-part foldable roof that would shapeshift one’s car into a convertible.
The following year, the company saw two breakthroughs in safety: the Smart Key feature, an eletronic access and authorisation system that doubles up as an anti-theft device that’s now a feature commonly found in most cars. Instead of using the conventional method of using a mechanical key to unlock and start a car, the Smart Key uses an electronic code. This feature was first introduced in the S-Class models. The other breakthrough was the BAS Brake Assist, an electronic braking system that helps the driver to maximise braking pressure when faced with an emergency situation. It interprets the braking behaviour of the driver and, if required, initiates full-braking faster than the driver can – resulting in avoiding collisions or at least reducing the speed of impact.
Attention Assist is a world-first in identifying potential fatigue of the driver, and giving out audible and visual warnings for the driver to take a break. It functions by creating a profile of the driver as soon as he starts driving, using it as a basis of comparison for the rest of the drive. If the system detects a change in driving behaviour, a warning sounds off. The system takes into consideration factors such as existing road conditions as well as the duration of the drive.
Night View Assist was the first system to be displayed out of the instrument cluster’s LCD instead of on a separate display screen. It uses an infra-red camera to project a night-vision view of the road ahead. In 2009, Night View Assist Plus added a pedestrian detection function. In 2011 and 2013, further upgrades were carried out such as a Spotlight Function and animal detection capabilities. Safety first, after all!
2016 – present
Leading in automobile innovation, the 2017 E-Class has luxury meeting safety – and introduces cars that can communicate with each other and look out for the driver – making it the ultimate stand out of the road.
For the first time, Mercedes-Benz introduces PRE-SAFE Sound, which senses an impending collision. It emits safe “pink noise” through the audio system to pre-trigger your ears’ natural defense against the loud noises of an accident.
Another world-first aids in the driver being unable to see corners, with the Car-To-X Communication technology which connects your E-Class to a central information resource in order to send you in-car updates about driving conditions before you get to them. The car is also able to report hazards that can help other E-Class drivers.
Photos from Google and Mercedes-Benz.