The Experimental Safety Vehicle Program: Driving Evolution

The 1970s transformed the automobile industry in countless ways, many of them similar to the changes that came over the US after the frontier was settled. Sanity prevailed over exuberance, adventure took a back seat to safety, and government made its presence known like never before. One way that it did so was by announcing the Experimental Safety Vehicle (ESV) program in 1973, a program designed to encourage automakers to develop new safety technologies.

Responding to the challenge, companies came forward with vehicles that ranged from the brilliant to the ludicrous. In 1972, GM was already working on a vehicle with an enhanced front bumper and steel side beams in the doors. Large B-pillars provided rollover protection and allowed for wraparound windshields to increase visibility.  A cutting-edge device called an air bag also made an appearance in that vehicle. Designed to protect the driver, it deployed during crashes with speeds exceeding 30 MPH.

Volkswagen introduced its first ESV in 1972. The car was designed to ensure survivability for passengers at speeds of up to 50 MPH. It included forward-thinking innovations like anti-lock brakes and three-point safety belts with force limiters and pretensioners. On the other hand, it also had features like an overhead “safety blanket” that dropped down on the heads of passengers in case of an accident.

Mercedes-Benz Experimental Safety Vehicle

The ESV program has continued into the 21st century, spawning ongoing developments such as rear-facing cameras, collision sensors, and seats that push seats inward in the event of a crash.  Looking towards the future, ideas currently being tested include sensors that detect when the driver is tired and cars driven entirely by computers. None of this is as exciting as a 1960s muscle car with 4-barrel carbs, of course. But, as even cowboys must admit, it’s worth giving up a little excitement for safer roads and a better world.

PHOTOS: See more of the 1973 Mercedes-Benz Experimental Safety Vehicle on BoldRide

Photo Credits: Car & Driver, Mad4Wheels

Follow Yahoo! Autos

More Articles

  • USAF certifies Elon Musk's SpaceX for military launches

    Elon Musk's SpaceX startup has scored a big victory, earning certification from the US Air Force to launch national security payloads.This post is appearing on Autoblog Military, Autoblog's sub-site dedicated to the vehicles, aircraft and ships of the world's armed forces.Elon Musk's SpaceX has scored a …

  • New Elon Musk bio tops best-seller list

    A new biography about Tesla CEO Elon Musk hits the top of the Audible Best-Seller list. We'll be discussing the book with readers next week.There's a new non-fiction best-seller and it's all about one of our favorite automotive leaders. Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by tech journalist …

  • Mercedes C-Class coupe spied undisguised

    Mercedes is still prepping the forthcoming C-Class coupe for its debut. However, these spy shots show that the two-door is stripping off some of its camouflage to reveal more of its pretty face.The closer that it gets to an official unveiling, the more camouflage the Mercedes-Benz C-Class coupe is stripping off. These latest …

  • Sell the House, Live in This Vintage GMC Bus

    There’s something to be said about unplugging from conventional norms, forgoing the house, mortgage or rent, and instead taking your home on the road. Living in a self-contained house on wheels surely isn’t for everyone, but those who live it, swear by it. And it doesn’t get much more self-contained than this.  In 1956, …

  • Urban Riding Gear that Looks Good and Functions On and Off the Bike

    Thankfully, in recent years, fashion and style have edged their way into motorcycle apparel industry. Motorcycles by themselves are functional pieces of art, and as such, you should try to look as good as the bike does when rolling down the