Saab tests - what can the ABS system really do?

Munich, towards the end of the 90s. I was on the road with a friend to test what an ABS system can really do. Our test car was its brand new Mercedes 190 E. Test site the cobblestone route past the Maximilianeum towards the Praterinsel.

Saab is testing ABS on the Teves site
Saab is testing ABS on the Teves site

The route was notorious at the time. The road conditions were a disaster, the slope down to the Praterinsel tempted to drive too fast. Almost everyone knew someone who had already wrecked their car here. For us it was the first contact with the anti-lock braking system. The Mercedes did a very good job, braking and staying on track even in poor road conditions - that was something very special.

ABS was available in more and more vehicles from the mid-80s. Sometimes in series, but often for a steep surcharge. Like everything new, the system sparked heated discussions. Quite a few drivers continued to swear by the stutter brake, as they had learned in driving school. The fact that an anti-lock braking system (ABS) would do better and safer braking was not accepted for many years.

Then there was the snow thing. The ABS had to be able to be switched off there, otherwise the car would not come to a standstill and continue to slide uncontrollably. Because in the event of an emergency braking, the permanently regulating system would not be able to form a blocking wedge in front of the front wheels. As a consequence, the manufacturers of sporty vehicles in particular, or who included themselves, built in a manual switch for the ABS.

Max Danner tests the Saab ABS

You can tell that the introduction of the ABS system was not without controversy. The manufacturers felt compelled to explain and made videos. As Saab did too.

The Swedes worked with Teves (now Continental Teves). Safety researcher Max Danner and the Allianz Center for Technology tested two Saab 9000 CCs on the test track at the Frankfurt Rödelheim plant. Danner was a celebrity at the time, a pioneer of road safety, and his research featured in many auto magazines and television shows.

One of his books was succinctly titled “Gurt oder Tod”.

One of the vehicles was equipped with ABS, the other Saab lacked the system. The historical recordings demonstrate the general braking ability and the controllability in wet conditions with the anti-lock braking system. They should convince every viewer.

The ABS test was also discussed in detail in the customer magazine “Neues vom Troll” in December 1989. And for Saab drivers who already had a vehicle with ABS, there was the advice to familiarize themselves with the system in an empty parking lot.

Such were the times then.

6 thoughts on "Saab tests - what can the ABS system really do?"

  • @Volvaab Driver

    In seafaring people always say: In court and on the high seas you are in God's hands!
    Although I think the forces of nature can be better assessed with experience and respect 😉

    I actually managed to sue for damages for two flat tires after I had a cardboard nose in front of the old ABS-free SAAB. It's been a long time.

  • Damage from braking

    There was even a landmark judgment that went through the press at the time. Without ABS, a driver had avoided an accident by emergency braking that was not his own fault.
    He sued several instances without success for damages for 2 new tires (the brake plate is mainly at the front due to the load change) and a new front spoiler.

    The judges justified that an emergency stop is a general operational risk in road traffic. Such a vehicle would either have to survive without damage (the spoiler should not have touched) or the operator would have to bear the consequences himself.

    I am closer to the judges than to the plaintiff.
    But I think it's stupid that, based on the same logic, it is basically difficult to pinpoint road users as the culprit for their misconduct (e.g. disregarding the right of way).
    Sometimes it is about (unsuccessful) evasive maneuvers and serious consequences for life and limb, without (!) Contact with the actual cause. And then we always start to swim legally and legally.

    For example, a motorcyclist is classified as a self-accident because he slipped past the person who caused it, instead of colliding with him "properly" and fatally. That goes a little too far for me.

  • @StF and Tim Weber There really is a “brake plate” and it wasn't that rare (back then). Annoying when you only have a smaller budget as a working student 😉 But luckily a long time ago and thanks to ABS, it's no longer an issue.

  • De-profile tires with emergency braking

    I assume that it is actually possible. Of course, it depends on the speed at the beginning of the braking process and it is imperative that locking braking is applied, which very few drivers actually initiate.

    As mentioned in the video, you are still told in every safety training today that you should quickly build up the maximum brake pressure in the event of an emergency braking. In order to support inexperienced drivers, there has been a brake assistant for some time.

    I wanted to write something to try out, but I think this is the wrong forum for something like that.

  • So far I've only really gotten to know vehicles with ABS, for me that's a matter of course ... Did you really get the tire down completely with one brake as quickly as in the video? Somehow I can hardly imagine.

  • Belts & ABS

    The 2 articles so far in quick succession on the historical introduction and reception of security systems seem to me to suggest a series of articles? I am all eager to know what happens next.

    Hardly anyone today would doubt the sense and benefit of belts & ABS. But younger systems are still often criticized ...

    Those who want to make the discussion easy for themselves refer to the critics and skeptics of the past and derive a tradition from them.

    Two points define a straight line, a line. According to Gurten & ABS, any criticism of assistance and safety systems would henceforth be in the tradition of those who refuse to progress and who are forever yesterday - up to and including criticism of autonomous driving.

    As I have experienced Tom & the blog so far, it will not be that easy and flat. I can hardly imagine that there will ultimately be a flaming plea against the self-determined driver.

    Personally, I really appreciate belts and ABS. And yet other assistants and security systems sometimes go too far for me. I consider it to be an inadmissible reverse conclusion to deduce from the refuted skepticism of the past that from now on every skeptic per se is wrong.

    The topic is now much too complex for that. In addition to traffic safety, economic and environmental issues also play a role. Or informal self-determination.

    The other day I saw two vehicles involved in an accident in the city center that showed hardly any deformation. Certainly no life was saved.
    Nevertheless, both cars were total write-offs. One because all 9 airbags were popped up. The damage to people and the environment was possibly greater than absolutely necessary? You do not know exactly.

    My point is that the security issue has long been played out at a very high level. The question of whether we sometimes and long ago accept other sacrifices can no longer be answered so easily and clearly.

    The insurance industry also expressed itself in this sense years ago. There are more and more exterior mirrors, fronts and rear ends that, with parking aids, distance radar and who knows what else, suffer total economic losses in an accident that would previously only have required a hammer, skill and a little paint to completely eliminate the consequences.

    Today, a young used car or even a new car with an additional payment at its current value is increasingly the means to settle an accident damage. This requires the production of new cars, which costs energy, resources and worldwide sacrifices that are no longer directly attributed to private transport, but are nevertheless demanded by it. Everything is very complex and no longer that simple.

    Sometimes less is more. Good question, where exactly is the sweet spot actually.


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