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.
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.