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by Brett Davis

Which car company came out with the first seat-belt integrated airbag on a standard production car? Well, normally the first car company to pop into people’s heads is Volvo, but in this case, as with many other cases, it was actually Mercedes-Benz who implemented practical airbag technology into a production vehicle.

Mercedes-Benz can be accounted for a vast array of safety feature firsts. Others include, the first production car with a completely electronic four-wheel multi-channel anti-lock brake system (ABS), pretensioned seat belts and electronic stability control.

Now, the company is celebrating 30 years since introducing the first seat-belt integrated supplementary restraint system – the airbag – which debuted in 1980 on the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

Previously developed by GM in the United States, the airbag was invented as a sort of replacement to the seat belt. Mercedes-Benz, however, developed the technology further to automatically adjust seat belt tension upon airbag deployment, utilising the full safety potential of both the seat belt and the airbag.

A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concluded that ‘the statistical probability of fatal injury with an airbag and seat belt is 61 percent lower’ than without the features equipped, and that ‘airbags have saved a total of 28,244 lives in the USA: 23,127 drivers – of whom 13,999 were not wearing a seat belt – and 5117 front passengers – of whom 2883 were not wearing a seat belt’.

Well done Mercedes-Benz. We look forward to more of your technology, and look further forward to it trickling down to car models which most of us can actually afford.




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