High honors: Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg recognized with the VdM “Golden Diesel Ring”

Dr. Hackenberg expressed thanks for the appreciation of his achievements and said that he felt very honored. Beforehand, he explained in his keynote address the philosophy that Audi and Volkswagen follow in the field of safety technology: “We have developed a concept that covers all aspects. It ranges from passive and active safety systems and new technologies for piloted driving to seamless networking of the car and its environment. This all happens to the benefit of our customers, who are always the focus of our development work.” Dr. Hackenberg also stressed that: “One important concern for us here is to democratize the safety systems. This maxim calls for deploying the most advanced technologies throughout all of the model lines as quickly as possible.”

The subject of safety has been a high priority at Audi for many years. As far back as 1938, early crash tests were performed by the forerunner brand DKW. The NSU Prinz of 1958 already featured a crumple zone for frontal collisions; in the late 1960s, Audi began using dummies in crash tests. Other milestones include the Procon‑ten restraint system from 1986 and the Audi Accident Research Unit (AARU) founded in 1998 to study traffic accidents. Today, crash simulations alone involve more than 200 specialists working in Audi Technical Development.

During his career at Audi, Volkswagen and Bentley, Dr. Hackenberg has initiated and realized countless safety projects. An important field of work continues to be the classic task of protecting passengers and pedestrians in collisions. Another field is the avoidance of accidents through developments that improve driving fitness and reduce stress on the driver. These include ergonomic concepts and measures to reduce noise as well as the use of innovative lighting systems. Driver assistance systems have gained importance in recent years in all vehicle segments – from the city emergency braking function in the Volkswagen up! to the top solution, Audi pre sense plus.

The philosophy of Audi and Volkswagen also includes spreading the new technologies in the worldwide markets through competitive pricing. The critical lever for this is high‑volume production – made possible through efficient development and manufacturing. The modular longitudinal matrix, which will soon launch its second generation, and the modular transverse matrix offer the perfect conditions for this. Dr. Hackenberg was responsible for the development of both modular platforms.

Democratizing also means cooperation – the worldwide research and development network of Audi includes four leading universities in China. Since 2007, Dr. Hackenberg has taught as part of a guest professorship at Tongji University in Shanghai. Two years prior to that, the university launched a partnership with Volkswagen AG on his initiative for a joint research project that studies traffic accidents.

At the presentation of the Diesel Ring in Leipzig, Dr. Hackenberg offered a glimpse into the future. Audi will introduce its new technologies for piloted driving before the end of this decade. These will reduce the burden on the driver in many situations and offer the potential for avoiding accidents. One key to piloted driving is continuing the seamless networking of the car. Aspects of this include car‑to‑X communication – cars that communicate with each other can warn of dangers such as slippery roads or crossing traffic at intersections and, as a result, develop swarm intelligence that can benefit all motorists.

Since 1955, the German Association of Motoring Journalists (VdM) has presented the Diesel Ring each year to prominent figures who have made outstanding contributions to “increasing traffic safety and reducing the consequences of accidents.” The award’s name reflects the fact that a fragment of a bolt from the first test engine made by Rudolf Diesel is incorporated into the Golden Ring trophy. A piece of a bolt from the engine was severed for this purpose in 1954 at the MAN museum in Augsburg.