Sunday 9rd May 2021
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The speed trap: Mercedes-Benz Museum Inside No. 28/2021

Reading time approx. 5 Minutes

The speed trap Mercedes Benz Museum 2 The speed trap: Mercedes Benz Museum Inside No. 28/2021

Photo credit: Mercedes-Benz

The diverse permanent exhibition of the Mercedes-Benz Museum presents 160 vehicles and a total of 1.500 exhibits. The “33 extras” are a special component: They bring mobility history and automotive culture to life using the example of often surprising details. The Mercedes-Benz Museum Inside newsletter series draws attention to the “33 extras” and brings their stories to the point. Today's episode is about the speed camera.

The speed trap!

Lightning out of the blue: For more than 60 years, drivers in the Federal Republic of Germany have been "flashed" when they pass a police or regulatory authority measuring point at too high a speed. The mostly red light of the briefly flashing lamp is used for the photographic documentation of the license plate and driver. The speed is measured beforehand using various techniques, including radar. This has also given the corresponding systems the name "Radarfalle".

The speed trap Mercedes Benz Museum 1 The speed trap: Mercedes Benz Museum Inside No. 28/2021

Fixed: Speed ​​cameras installed at a fixed point often work with measuring strips embedded in the roadway. They register a car driving over them and use this to calculate the speed. If the maximum speed applicable at the point is exceeded, the flash and camera are triggered. They are often in a case with round openings (at the bottom for the flash, at the top for the camera) that is installed on a pole. This shape, reminiscent of a nest box for birds, has led to the designation “star box” for such measuring devices. The exhibit from the "33 Extras" series in the Mercedes-Benz Museum is one of these star boxes from the manufacturer Traffipax.

Science fiction: Ideas for monitoring the speed of road traffic with technical aids are almost as old as the automobile itself. In his science fiction "A Journey in Other Worlds", for example, the American writer John Jacob Astor, who died in the sinking of the Titanic, describes Astor as early as 1894 How the traffic police will use series of photographs in the future to determine the speed of vehicles in city traffic: "The police officers on duty have instant cameras mounted on tripods that show the position of each vehicle every half and quarter of a second, which makes it easy to determine the exact speed lets. “Today there are solutions for speed monitoring based on at least a similar principle. It registers vehicles entering and exiting a controlled route and calculates the average speed.

The first systems in use are mobile

Back and forth: However, the first technical systems used in practice for measuring speed in the Federal Republic of Germany are mobile. The measuring device sends out radar waves that are reflected by vehicles and sent back at a different frequency. The speed of the respective vehicle can be calculated from the frequency change during this back and forth. In February 1959, the traffic police near Düsseldorf used the "VRG 2 traffic radar device" from the manufacturer Telefunken for the first time. A technically exact speed measurement in road traffic was previously not possible.

The speed trap Mercedes Benz Museum 5 The speed trap: Mercedes Benz Museum Inside No. 28/2021

Road safety and municipal finances: The speed measurement is primarily intended to improve road safety by monitoring compliance with speed limits. This applies in particular to the maximum speed of 50 km / h in urban areas, which applies in the Federal Republic of Germany from September 1, 1957. However, local authorities soon discover that the speeding fines can also improve the finances of the municipality or city. Since then, there have been repeated disputes about the positioning of measuring points: Are these really particularly critical points in road traffic? Or are they chosen more because they promise high sales?

Technical development: Since the premiere of radar measurements in road traffic more than 60 years ago, the corresponding technologies have been further developed. There are fixed systems and mobile measuring devices of various types. The speeds are measured using contact loops, radar, lidar and light barriers, among other things. At the same time, cruise control in the automobile itself is becoming more and more convenient. This is done, for example, by the cruise control that Mercedes-Benz first presented in 116 in the S-Class of the 107 series and the SLC sports car of the C 1975 series. It will later be supplemented by the "Limiter" function, with which a fixed maximum speed can be selected.

The speed trap Mercedes Benz Museum 3 The speed trap: Mercedes Benz Museum Inside No. 28/2021

Pit lane with speed limit since the mid-90s

Motorsport: Races on the track are all about top speeds. In the pit lane, however, a speed limit has been prescribed in the premier Formula 1 class since the mid-1990s; it is currently 80 km / h. Even if the limit is exceeded slightly, the racing drivers receive time fines and fines. The antidote: modern racing cars usually have a limiter built into the pit lane that is operated by the driver.

Driver's assistant: The automobile is being given more and more opportunities to actively support the driver in maintaining the applicable maximum speed. Today, for example, the Active Speed ​​Limit Assist in Mercedes-Benz automobiles can use a camera to recognize traffic signs and record the applicable speed limits even in confusing situations. The Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC automatically accepts this information if required and adjusts the vehicle's speed accordingly.

The speed trap Mercedes Benz Museum 2 The speed trap: Mercedes Benz Museum Inside No. 28/2021

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