ZF has successfully demonstrated an external side airbag for cars that doesn’t react like a traditional airbag but actually predicts the collision and becomes an additional crumple zone.

The airbag game is about to change forever with the successful demonstration of ZF’s external side airbag for cars. The airbag deploys milliseconds before the collision rather than milliseconds after it as traditional airbags behave.

According to ZF, “It provides an additional lateral crumple zone, which can help save lives and reduce occupant injury severity by up to 40 percent. To make this possible, ZF has networked the airbags to the vehicle’s sensor systems and developed algorithms that are capable of determining if a crash is imminent and decide whether or not to deploy the airbag”.

And it’s that decision-making process on whether the collision is unavoidable that’s had boffins head-scratching for years. According to ZF, the sensors are given just 150 milliseconds (about the time it takes you to blink) to determine whether the airbag should be deployed and also filled; the airbag capacity is between 280 and 400 litres. As it fills it expands upwards to fill the space between the A and C pillars forming an additional crumple zone. According to ZF its system can reduce the impact and penetration of the colliding vehicle by up to 30 percent.

ZF has begun working with a premium German car maker on the integration of this system into future products but won’t say which brand it’s working with.


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