Jürgen Paul – Mercedes-Benz S-Class pioneer in vehicle safety


A key player in the development of the anti-lock braking system (ABS): Jürgen Paul – Born in Berlin-Köpenick on 2 August 1941

Jürgen Paul

Jürgen Paul was one of the engineers behind the anti-lock braking system (ABS), which marked its series deployment and world premiere in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class in 1978. He was also involved in various subsequent developments based on ABS, such as acceleration slip regulation (ASR) and the ESP® Electronic Stability Program. He was also a pioneer of anti-lock braking systems in motor sport vehicles.

A native of Berlin, Jürgen Paul completed his mechanical engineering studies at the Technical University in West Berlin as a graduate engineer. On 1 January 1969, he began his career at what was then Daimler-Benz AG, first as a clerical assistant for ABS sensors – a area that he would remain involved in throughout his career.

In the years that followed, Paul worked together with the then development partner Teldix to develop ABS based on analogue electronics. In 1970, this system was also given its first public showing in vehicles in the Mercedes-Benz W 115/114 model series – and received a resounding reception by enthusiastic experts and members of the press. The principle was impressive: this world first maintained a vehicle’s steering capability even when the brakes were fully applied and the system significantly shortened the braking distance, particularly on wet roads.

But it was not yet ready for series production, since the required reliability had not yet been achieved: the conversion to digital electronics under Paul’s leadership began in 1974. It was not until integrated circuits were invented that it became possible to build small, sturdy computers which were capable, for instance, of quickly converting data from the wheel sensors to acceleration data and properly and reliably activating the valves which regulate brake pressure. In addition, rotating mass sensors were no longer used; instead, wheel acceleration and speed were calculated purely electronically based on signals from the speed sensor. ABS test vehicles and large-scale testing with 100 test vehicles over a total distance of some 35 million kilometres provided evidence of the new system’s operational reliability before its introduction into series production. This work led to the world premiere of series-production ABS in the S-Class W 116 model series in 1978, developed in partnership with Bosch and initially available as an option at a cost of DM 2,217.60.

Mercedes-Benz passenger cars were first equipped with ABS as standard in 1984. Ten years after the initial introduction, already one million Mercedes-Benz passenger cars with ABS travel the world’s roads. Mercedes-Benz has played a pioneering role in commercial vehicles as well. As early as 1981, for example, ABS was available for pneumatic brakes, developed in partnership with WABCO. All of the brand’s large touring coaches have been equipped as standard with ABS since 1986, as have all of the brand’s trucks since 1991.

Accordingly, Paul played a key role in the further development of all subsequent stages of ABS for passenger cars, including, for instance, high control accuracy and a more comfortable brake pedal feel during full braking. Further technical systems which he helped develop were acceleration slip regulation ASR (September 1985), the ESP® driving safety system, first introduced as standard in the S-Class in 1995, and Brake Assist (BAS), fitted as standard in Mercedes-Benz passenger cars from 1996 onwards.

In the early 1990s, when Roland Asch suggested the introduction of ABS in Mercedes-Benz racing cars, Jürgen Paul once again performed pioneering work in adapting the system to the specific requirements of motorsport. In late 1990, the system found its way into the Mercedes-Benz racing cars of the German Touring Car Championship (DTM).

Paul received numerous accolades for his contributions to vehicle safety systems. On 5 June 1979, he received the Safety Award for Engineering Excellence for the development of ABS, which is given out by the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (N.H.T.S.A). On 27 March 1981, he received the “Porsche Award” jointly with the Bosch engineer Heinz Leiber in Vienna, also for the development of ABS. This was followed on 17 October 1996 by the Prince Michael Road Safety Award, given out since 1987, which he, along with the then technical director of the car supplier Lucas, Heinz Rath, received for the development of Brake Assist (BAS) from the British Prince Michael of Kent.

On 1 July 1994, Jürgen Paul became Center Director for Brakes and Control Systems at Mercedes-Benz Engineering. Just over three years later, on 31 December 1997, he retired.