Mercedes-Benz's top secret test track (located under a freeway overpass) turns 50. This is as good a reason as any to show these fantastic photos of vehicles being tested in extreme conditions.
Take this bus, for example. Well, I wouldn't take that bus, for sure! But buses need to be tested too. And the buses would feel left out if only cars were allowed to go vertical.
According to Mercedes-Benz, for long-term testing purposes it is particularly important to be able to drive through the steep-bank curve at 150 km/h with no hands on the wheel. At this point there are no longer any lateral forces impacting on the tyres and the vehicle remains on track through the bend without any steering input.
The rough-road track (above) was built to replicate a particularly poor stretch of road in the Lüneburg Heath in the north of Germany as it was in the early 1950s. (Did they improve the test track when the original road was fixed? Who knows...) Tests like these are so stressful that drivers have to change over every two hours.
There's also a 34-metre-long crosswind section, featuring 16 blowers designed to produce gusts of up to 100 km/h.
Don't forget tests for taking evasive action! If the streets are ever invaded by slow-moving, karate-chopping cardboard cut-outs, then rest easy knowing that your Merc has been tested in these trying conditions.
There was also a stretch of track designed to test the driving stability of suspensions at high speed and during abrupt changes of lane. Or, as I like to think of it, "driving in Italy". ("Driving in Canberra" involves abrupt changes of lane at 80km/h.)
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