Airbags outside your car could improve crash safety

External airbags are being developed to reduce T-bone collision severity by up to 40 percent

Zf Wozer Jpg

GERMAN automotive parts manufacturer ZF has detailed its vision for an airbag system that deploys on the exterior of a car to decrease the harshness of side-impact collisions.

Large airbags inflated within milliseconds down the length of a car’s doors are said to reduce the severity of injuries sustained in car accidents by up to 40 percent, according to the maker.

While exterior airbags aren’t new – Volvo’s V40 had bonnet-mounted airbags to create a soft place for pedestrians to land – ZF’s airbags are meant to absorb the impact energy of another car.

While ZF has been developing the technology for a number of years, the advent of autonomous vehicles will enable a car to ‘foresee’ a crash happening through various sensors, radars and cameras, and subsequently deploy the airbag to act as an additional crumple zone.

Whereas traditional airbags deploy after an accident has happened, ZF’s concept airbags aim to explode just prior to impact, as soon as the car can detect a fast-moving vehicle approaching from the side too quickly to avoid a crash.

"Our concept of the pre-crash external side airbag is a great example of how ZF wants to achieve its Vision Zero, a world without accidents and emissions," said Dr Michael Buchsner, head of ZF’s passive vehicle safety systems division.

"Occupant safety is paramount when developing new vehicles for automated and autonomous driving.”

The airbag technology remains a concept at the moment, but ZF is in talks with manufacturers and could potentially have it on production cars, reducing the severity of T-bone car collisions, in two years’ time.


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