Biographies: The experts at Mercedes-Benz Classic Insight

Oct 10, 2018

Dipl.-Ing. Karl-Heinz Baumann
Born 11 May 1951 in Villingen

Karl-Heinz Baumann had a decisive and lasting influence on the safety features of numerous Mercedes-Benz, smart and Maybach models. The long list of his inventions and innovations includes e.g. the automatic rollover bar (1989 in SL model series R 129), the anticipatory occupant protection system PRE-SAFE® (introduced in 2002 in S-Class model series 220) and the Experimental Safety Vehicle ESF 2009. He also played a major part in the Integral Safety concept, which combines active and passive safety to create an integral system.

Baumann was that type of development engineer who ideally combined theory and practice in his profession and vocation. From 1966 to 1969 he initially did an apprenticeship as a toolmaker. From 1974 to the end of 1976, after obtaining his technical college entry qualification, he studied mechanical and production engineering and graduated with a degree in engineering. This was followed by an additional compact course of study at the Technical University of Constance and the college of welding technology in Mannheim, where he was trained as a specialist welding engineer. Thus equipped in both theory and practice, he joined the then Daimler-Benz AG in May 1977 in the development department for passenger car body accident safety – a specialist area that would forever preoccupy him.

In 1986 Baumann was appointed as group leader in the bodyshell research department, also with responsibility for the passive safety of passenger cars. In 1994 he became deputy head of department in bodyshell testing. In 1997 he became a senior manager and head of strategies and concepts for passive safety, as well as child safety for Mercedes-Benz and smart passenger cars. Over the years Baumann was decisively involved in the development of passive safety in model series 126, 201, 124, 129, 140, 202, 210, 203, 170, 220 and smart.

During his professional activities he was repeatedly able to achieve striking breakthroughs. One of his outstanding innovations was undoubtedly the active rollover bar for cabriolets, realised for the first time in 1989, in Mercedes-Benz SL model series R 129. This set a new standard throughout the industry: the concept of the automatically extending rollover bar created under Baumann’s aegis began a new era in safe open-top driving. The concept of the ellipsoid firewall in SLK model series R 170 as a short, open-top car also opened up a new dimension in crash safety for this vehicle class. No less of a triumph was the rigid tridion safety cell of the two-seater smart, an absolute world first in this vehicle category.

Baumann was never satisfied with one-sided results. His expectations were only met by cross-disciplinary and multifunctional solutions. One result of this approach was the seven-phase concept first sketched out in 1997, which saw safety in passenger cars as a comprehensive task and a combination of active and passive safety. The long list of Baumann’s other inventions and innovations includes e.g. the alternative energy absorber, crash-responsive head restraints, the Experimental Safety Vehicle ESF 2009 and integral safety concepts such as are e.g. realised in the anticipatory occupant protection system PRE-SAFE®. In 2003, as the intellectual father of PRE-SAFE®, Baumann received the US Government Award for Safety Engineering Excellence from the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).

In 2007 Baumann became a lecturer at the Technical University of Dresden, where like Professor Rodolfo Schöneburg, Head of Safety, Durability and Corrosion Protection at Mercedes-Benz Cars, he gave lectures on “Integral safety for passenger cars”. This was followed in 2011 by a teaching assignment in the field of “Passive Safety for Passenger Cars” at Dresden International University. For Baumann it is immensely important not to keep experience and knowledge to oneself as a mark of superiority. One of his primary intentions for up-and-coming generations of technicians is to awaken their interest in this field by imparting experiences.

The enthusiastic car driver and active paraglider is aware of risks and the critical limits in real life. Perhaps that is what makes Baumann so successful and creative in avoiding them by preventive measures, for the benefit of all. He retired in spring 2012. He remains active for Daimler as a Senior Expert, and runs his engineering consultancy KHBSafetyFirst on a freelance basis. His awards include the “Golden Seat Belt” from Motor Presse Club e.V. for his major achievements in the areas of passive and integral safety – there is no doubt that many car drivers owe their lives to the inventiveness and creativity of Karl-Heinz Baumann.

Prof. h.c. Dipl.-Ing. Hermann Gaus
Born 22 January 1936 in Leutkirch (Allgäu)

Born in the Allgäu region of Germany, Hermann Gaus was interested in technology from an early age. He already wanted to become an engineer when aged just 13, and he worked in an agricultural machinery workshop during his school holidays. He got his dream career: After passing his ‘Abitur’ (A levels), he went to Stuttgart Technical University in 1955 to study mechanical engineering and writing his thesis on a dynamometer for agricultural tractors in 1960. In 1961, Gaus took up a post as a research assistant in the School of Agricultural Machinery at the University of Göttingen.

The engineer soon switched his focus to passenger cars. Gaus joined the Special Transmission Design department at Daimler-Benz AG on 15 February 1962. He gained important experience during development of the automatic transmission for the Mercedes-Benz 600 (W 100). Having impressed with his creative thoroughness, by 1969 he had been promoted from designer to main group leader for the design of control systems for automatic car transmissions. It was also during this time that the electronics era began for the designer. Gaus designed an electrical transmission control system with relay technology and developed this into a transistor solution in collaboration with electronics experts. In 1971 he took over as head of the Automatic Car Transmission Control Systems department, followed in 1976 by a position as senior head of department with responsibility for the design of automatic transmissions and power steering for passenger cars and commercial vehicles.

In 1982 the Automatic Transmission Design department split into two units: Passenger Cars and Commercial Vehicles. As unit manager for Passenger Car Design, Gaus assumed responsibility for the Suspension Powertrain, Engine Operating Systems and Electrics/Electronics (E/E) units. This last discipline became an increasingly key area for Mercedes-Benz: In 1985 the Stuttgart brand unveiled the electronic assistance systems ASD, ASR and 4MATIC, based on the ABS that had been available since 1978. Two other important development steps for which Gaus was responsible were the SL model series 129 with electronic control of the roof and rollover bar construction and S-Class model series 140. Here the first use of the CAN data bus at the company gave rise to new networking possibilities for future technologies.

Gaus was given power of procuration in March 1988, taking over as Director Complete Vehicles in the Design and Testing unit. The fact that he had already been responsible for electrics/electronics design in his specialist department made his job with overall responsibility for the introduction of numerous electronic and digital systems up until the mid-1990s easier. By way of example, he initiated the development of navigation systems and brought them up to production standard. In July 1994, Gaus assumed development responsibility for the E-Class, S-Class, SL and SLK. During this time he harvested the success of developments he had initiated and supported: ESP® premiered in S-Class model series 140 in 1995, and the first navigation system was made available as an option for model series 140 in the same year. Following the introduction of S-Class model series 220 in 1998, the amount of electronics used in the car increased exponentially.

Those who worked under Hermann Gaus saw him as an enthusiastic but also critical fan of electronics: Every Monday during development of S-Class model series 220, they would receive lists of faults that needed to be rectified, which Gaus had found over the weekend. In 1998, at the request of Mercedes-Benz chief Jürgen Hubbert, Gaus assumed the role of Project Lead and Head of Development for the Maybach. He successfully completed the project with the market launch in 2003 before retiring.

In 1992 he succeeded former Daimler-Benz design chief Prof. Joachim-Hubertus Sorsche as a lecturer at the University of Stuttgart. He lectured on construction, conception and overall design for major components and systems up until 2003. In 1998 he was made an honorary professor at the University of Stuttgart. Gaus was awarded the “Benz-Daimler-Maybach” medal of honour by the Association of German Engineers (VDI) in 2002. Hermann Gaus has been on the Board of Management of the Wilhelm and Karl Maybach Foundation since 2007.

Dipl.-Ing. Frank Knothe
Born 24 February 1942 in Dresden

Frank Knothe studied at the Technical University of Karlsruhe, graduating in 1966 with a degree in engineering. In the same year he joined what was then Daimler-Benz AG. His career is marked by a diverse range of development and testing activities.

In 1971, in the test department, Knothe became group leader for the medium-size six-cylinder models (E-Class predecessor) in the Initial Assembly and Testing department. In 1972 he became a senior group manager and model patron for the 114, 107 and 123 model series. Always working in passenger car development and testing, Knothe was actively involved with various model series. From 1978 he took over the Medium-Size Cars department, and in 1984 the main Initial Vehicle Assembly and Testing department for all then current model series, i.e. the luxury class (S-Class), medium-size class (E-Class and predecessors), compact class (201 series) and the SL-Class.

From 1991 Knothe succeeded Hans Werner (“Tall Werner”) as Head of Overall Vehicle Testing, which included all model series. In 1994, with the introduction of a new organisational structure, he was given responsibility as head of model series for overall vehicle development of product group 2, which he headed until his retirement on 31 December 2006. This included the S-Class, the SL and the SLK. He also looked after the SLR McLaren.

To this day, Knothe regards it as an honour to have influenced wide aspects of numerous model series together with his team. This also includes his conviction that for generations, the S-Class in particular has been the pacemaker in its segment and the very model of safety, ride comfort, technology and luxury, and that the SL as a dynamic, highly emotive roadster with long-distance comfort has defined its segment from the very start.

Frank Knothe judges the time spent with his only employer and in his various teams to have been extremely exciting. The crowning glories of his career were S-Class model series 221 presented in autumn 2005 and CL Coupé model series C 216 presented in 2006. Afterwards Knothe still played a consultative role in the configuration of the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG.

Dipl.-Ing. Heinz Leiber
Born 3 October 1936 in Trossingen

Heinz Leiber discovered his talent and enthusiasm for technology at the School of Precision Engineering in Schwenningen. He chose to study at the Advanced Technical College in Esslingen, where he graduated after writing his thesis on a control system for electric motors with infrared control. At the age of 26, the young graduate engineer joined Teldix in Heidelberg, a joint subsidiary of Telefunken and the Bendix Corporation – and a major manufacturer of components such as braking systems in the USA. During his first three years here, Leiber worked on air navigation systems and studies concerning electrical miniature hydraulics.

From 1965, the focus of his job switched to the development of the anti-lock braking system (ABS) for passenger cars, commercial vehicles, and motorcycles. Daimler-Benz started to develop its own ABS components based on electronic/hydraulic control systems as early as 1963. In 1966, Teldix approached Daimler-Benz with a viable system based on fast-switching solenoid valves, wheel rpm sensors, and analogue electronics. In 1970, Daimler-Benz presented the ABS developed with Teldix; however, it was not reliable enough for day-to-day operation and series production. Bosch took over the Teldix branch in 1975, taking on many of its employees, too. The collaboration with Mercedes-Benz continued, resulting in the ABS based on digital electronics, which led to the breakthrough. The anti-lock braking system had its world premiere in 1978 in S-Class model series 116.

As Development Director, Bosch also gave Leiber responsibility for ignition system and the test field for electrics, electronics and mechatronics in 1978, as well as for electronic transmission control systems in 1982. Leiber then moved to the Advance Development department at Daimler-Benz AG in 1985. Here the experienced, exceptionally creative and enthusiastic engineer became Head of Section for Dynamic Handling Control Systems Electrics/Electronics (E/E) Testing. From 1988, he was Head of Design and Testing in the Electrics/Electronics unit with the exception of audio systems and lighting. From 1994, following the reorganisation of the Development department according to model series, he had overall responsibility for the Electrics/Electronics unit as Head of Section in Mercedes-Benz Passenger Car Development with eight departments. Leiber quickly succeeded in increasing his staff’s potential so that they could successfully perform the extensive new tasks involved in the introduction and linking of new electronic systems, sensors, and actuators. One highlight came in 1997 in the CLK (model series 208): the new electronics architecture developed under Leiber had three bus systems and an electronic ignition starter switch with key fob – a world first from Mercedes-Benz.

Heinz Leiber received many awards for his professional successes, including the NHTSA Safety Award from the Department of Transportation (DOT) in the USA in 1981 for the development of ABS, the “Professor Ferdinand Porsche” prize from Vienna Technical University in 1982 together with his Mercedes-Benz colleague Jürgen Paul, the prize for technology and applied sciences from Aachener and Münchener Versicherungen in 1992, and the Elmer A. Sperry Award in 1994. This was followed in 1997 by The Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany and in 2008 by the Diesel Gold Medal.

Heinz Leiber left Daimler-Benz AG in 1996. Up until 2006, he worked as a consultant in the fields of on-board electrical systems and sensor/mechatronic systems. In 1998, he founded the company LSP Innovative Automotive Systems GmbH together with his son Dr Thomas Leiber, who he still assists today.

Dipl.-Ing. Frank-Werner Mohn
Born 15 May 1957 in Essen

Frank-Werner Mohn was delving into the topic of driving safety even during his engineering studies at RWTH Aachen University: In his thesis, the soon-to-be graduate engineer used a simulation to verify that, with a modified coupling arrangement, an articulated truck could be brought to a halt in a stable and extended state when braking on a wet road surface. It was on the back of this that he joined Daimler-Benz AG in 1982 as a test engineer in the Commercial Vehicle Engine Advance Development department.

In 1987, Mohn switched to Passenger Car Advance Development, were he worked on wheel alignment. After the onset of active driving safety systems, much of his work was in the field of dynamic handling control systems such as ABS and later ESP®. One important moment here was a minor accident during a test drive in Sweden in 1989. After this, Mohn spent a lot of time working on how to reliably control driving dynamics at the limits. His results were incorporated into today’s ESP®, first implemented in 1991 in a Mercedes-Benz advance development vehicle. It was developed to production standard together with Bosch in a joint project centre. ESP® had its world premiere in 1995 in S-Class Coupé model series 140. Just three years later, the then new A-Class was fitted with this stabilising driving function as standard. After this, the compact class completed even unrealistic evasive manoeuvres such as the “Elk Test” with aplomb. Today ESP® is an industry standard.

At the turn of the millennium, Frank-Werner Mohn joined the Series Development department. As a specialist function owner here, he devoted himself to the anticipatory radar-based and later camera-based driver assistance systems, including DISTRONIC adaptive cruise control, Blind Spot Assist, and Lane Keeping Assist. During this time, Mohn among other things helped to develop the ESP® trailer stabilisation function now used in numerous vehicles.

From 2010, the engineer used his experience from co-inventing and developing many assistance systems in testware construction and communication of assistance systems for the development of Mercedes-Benz Cars. In particular he designed test setups and obstacle systems, e.g. moving pedestrian dummies as well as moving vehicle dummies that were detected by radar and cameras like real vehicles. Innovative testware of this kind is an important prerequisite for the development of accident-avoiding and comfort-enhancing assistance systems.

In addition to design and development, one of the focal points of Frank-Werner Mohn’s work lay in the explanation of these assistance systems at press events, trade fairs, and driving presentations. The engineer retired in autumn 2017. His extensive expert knowledge of how assistance systems work remains in very high demand.

Dr. Ir. Anton van Zanten
Born 27 July 1940 in Kota Radja, Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia

Van Zanten was 21 years old when he graduated from the mechanical engineering department at the School of Engineering in Arnhem (Netherlands). His two elder brothers has aroused his interest in technology. After his military service, he studied mechanical engineering at Eindhoven Technical University, graduating in 1968. Prompted by his wife, a doctor, his thesis dealt with the construction of a heart valve for a heart-lung machine.

During his subsequent stay as Visiting Lecturer at the School of Engineering of Pahlavi University in Shiraz (Iran) from 1968 to 1970, an American colleague recommended he apply for a post in the USA to improve his job prospects there and, above all, in Europe. Van Zanten lectured at the School of Engineering of Cornell University in Ithaca (New York), where he was employed as a Teaching Assistant from 1970 to 1973. This is where the course was set for his later successful career: For his doctorate, he was looking for a subject with industrial relevance. And he found it in the anti-lock braking system (ABS) for articulated trucks. Mercedes-Benz had already presented a working passenger-car ABS in 1970. Van Zanten jumped at the chance, immersed himself in the problem, and did his doctorate on the “Optimum Control of an Articulated Truck” at Cornell University in 1973.

Van Zanten returned to Europe with his family and, from 1973 to 1977, worked as a research associate at the University of Stuttgart Data Centre. Joining Robert Bosch GmbH in 1977 had a profound impact on his future career: In Schwieberdingen, he became a subject specialist for the development of new braking and engine control systems. His field of activities included a system that would later become world famous under the name Electronic Stability Program ESP®.

One problem that remained unresolved at the end of the 1970s was the sensor data basis for vehicle stabilisation from the interaction of electronic systems with the brakes. In 1982, van Zanten went to the powers that be at Bosch to suggest conducting tests with yaw rate sensors after gyroscope and acceleration sensors had proven incompatible. He received a positive answer and performed extensive tests with yaw rate sensors from General Electric. There were some familiar problems, however: firstly the price of a sensor was still too high, and secondly the quantities needed for large-scale production in the automotive industry were simply not available. This prompted Bosch to purchase a licence for sensor production from General Electric.

By 1988, Bosch had largely completed its development work. The only thing missing was orders from the automotive industry. The first partner to come on board was a close neighbour: Mercedes-Benz also had extensive advance development work on a vehicle stabilisation system underway, so the two companies decided to pool their experience. In May 1992, following a proposal from the then Head of Advance Development and Major Component Development at Mercedes-Benz, Dr Hans-Joachim Schöpf, the joint project centre for the series production launch of dynamic handling control FDR as it was then called was established at Bosch in Schwieberdingen. Anton van Zanten, who had managed the Development New Braking Control Systems department since 1989, represented Bosch as project lead. His equal partner at Mercedes-Benz was Armin Müller, with whom he would later share numerous awards.

Up until May 1994, there were 15 to 30 developers working at the project centre, split equally between the two companies. The project was partly based on the experience Mercedes-Benz had gained in advance development under project lead Professor Erich Schindler, whose working group also included the development engineer Frank-Werner Mohn. The results of their work were presented under the name Dynamic Handling Control (FDR) in 1994. This was followed by the market launch one year later under the name Electronic Stability Program ESP®. The system had its world premiere in Mercedes-Benz S 600 Coupé model series 140. Although the joint project centre was disbanded after this, the collaboration proved so successful that the group still meets regularly to this day.

The decisive impetus for large-scale production of ESP® came from Mercedes-Benz’s decision to equip the A-Class with the system as standard in 1997. This decision had a huge impact for Anton van Zanten: Staffing levels in his 35-strong department were due to be cut due to a lack of major orders. But many companies in the automotive industry were now shaken awake. They ordered large quantities of ESP® systems from Bosch. The breakthrough had been achieved, and the department even grew to the point where it employed 120 staff.

Anton van Zanten retired in 2003. But the awards and the work have continued to flood in: the “Professor Ferdinand Porsche” prize from Vienna Technical University in 1999, the “Golden Diesel Ring” from Verband der Motorjournalisten e.V. (Association of Motoring Journalists) in 2000, the “World Prize for Road Safety, Environment and Mobility” from the Fédération International de l’Automobile (FIA) in 2007, and the “European Inventor Award” in 2016. In addition to this, his advice is still much sought after in automotive industry, and he is working on future braking systems for autonomous cars together with a Munich engineering firm.

Dipl.-Ing. Richard Zimmer
Born 19 August 1950 in Dresden

Automotive electronics has shaped Richard Zimmer’s entire career. His parents relocated from Dresden to Fellbach/Stuttgart with him in 1955. Between 1965 and 1968, he completed an apprenticeship as a high-voltage electrician at Daimler-Benz before working as an industrial electrician in machine maintenance. After obtaining his advanced technical college certificate and completing eighteen months of military service in the German Federal Armed Forces, he started studying electrical engineering at the Esslingen University of Applied Sciences in 1975, graduating after writing a thesis about microcontrollers in 1978. This was important in setting the course for the future as digital technology would play a huge part for the rest of Richard Zimmer’s career.

He returned to Daimler-Benz AG as a test engineer in 1978. Here he worked on the development of the anti-lock braking system (ABS), which Mercedes-Benz and Bosch jointly developed to production standard. Richard Zimmer was assigned a production support role for the first-generation digital ABS, which was presented to the world’s public in August 1978. The ABS microcontroller served as a basis for other pioneering innovations: Zimmer helped develop anti-slip control (ASR) and worked on the development of 4MATIC all-wheel drive. He was also involved in the four-wheel drive for the G-Class unveiled in 1979 with engageable mechanical differential locks. To protect the company’s know-how, he applied for numerous patents during this development period.

A fascinating job came his way at the end of the 1980s. For the German Touring Car Championship (DTM), Richard Zimmer worked together with Bosch to develop ABS tuned specifically for motor racing, which was first used successfully by Roland Asch in the Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II at an invitation race in Kyalami (South Africa) on 18 November 1990. Under Zimmer’s lead, Mercedes-Benz developed the control software for the Bosch hardware used in the DTM touring race cars. Bosch itself put ABS in Formula 1, where it worked together with the Benetton team. One of the main development challenges in motorsport is the upstream calculation and simulation work to take account of the important influence of aerodynamics on braking – because motorsport does not have the option of performing classic testing owing to time and cost constraints. From 1994, changes in motorsport rules meant that ABS could no longer be used.

Zimmer was assigned pioneering new tasks at Daimler-Benz Advance Development: focussing on autonomous driving, which was still a long way off at that time, the engineer worked on dynamic computer-generated driving simulations and performed tests with steering systems that were no longer rigidly connected by mechanical linkages. They were actuated by influencable servomotors. Such components came to be known as “steer by wire” or “drive by wire”. They are a key prerequisite for autonomous driving systems, in which the electronic control systems access the steering, brake and accelerator.

Richard Zimmer faced a series of new challenges in 1997 when he switched to developing navigation devices. Some of the projects he worked on here involved the use of navigation data in anticipatory driver assistance and driver information systems. From 2006 to 2011, he worked in the USA, where he was responsible for approving telematics services. Here skyscraper canyons and multi-storey car parks mean that vehicle trackers have to fulfil specific requirements. After his return to Germany, Zimmer and his team in the Vehicle Development department were responsible for the measuring technology and the downstream fault analysis of the S-Class, E-Class and SL-Class. For E-Class model series 213 unveiled in 2016, the team of experts developed the first “ Functional Mock Up” (FMU), an early model in which all functions apart from the dynamic handling parameters are analysed and measured. In this way it is possible to detect and eliminate problems and errors at a very early stage. This FMU was functional around six months before the first ready-to-drive prototype. Richard Zimmer retired on 31 December 2015.