Safety is the top priority of any car maker. Volvo, Mercedes and all high-end manufacturers certainly invest some serious money to develop all kind of technologies which make cars safer than ever before. Volvo even reported that they plan to create cars in which it will be basically impossible to have a fatal accident by 2020. That is one hell of an announcement, but considering the way the car industry is headed, this will quite likely happen.
On the other hand, forty or fifty years ago car manufacturers had some rather interesting ways of testing car safety. NHTSA and EuroNCAP was not around back then, so the companies devised all sort of incredible test including powering cars to speeds by a sort of rocket propulsion to eventually smash them into a wall.
This video about BMW 2002 testing shows just how silly were tests back in the time. Although BMW did introduce some nice safety improvements, looking back at it from today’s perspective, 2002 was equally “safe” as any other car from the age. Nevertheless, it is rather nice seeing the efforts of the engineers of the time to improve safety. Some of the features they discovered are still used in cars and they help lower the number of fatalities and injuries from a car crash by a large margin.
Back in the Sixties BMW had to improve all of their technology to catch up with Mercedes-Benz and others. They, obviously, succeeded.