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This airbag deploys on the outside of your car right before a crash

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Posted at 9:57 PM, Jun 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-05 21:57:15-04

German manufacturing company ZF Friedrichshafen has designed a pre-crash external side airbag system that deploys on the outside of your vehicle.

The company says "side impact collision are among the most dangerous type of road traffic accidents, accounting for nearly 700 deaths per year and nearly a third of all occupant fatalities on German roads."

Their airbag system deploys milliseconds before a collision, the company says, and reduces the driver/passenger injury severity by at least 40 percent.

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.

How the system works

The biggest challenge in the development of this system was reliably recognizing an unavoidable collision and deploying the external side airbag before the collision takes place. The system has approximately 150 milliseconds to make the decision to deploy the airbag and fill it – roughly the amount of time it takes a person to blink.

The vehicle’s sensors first have to identify a potential impact quickly and accurately. This is possible with connected cameras, radar and lidar. Algorithms within the system software decide whether or not a collision is unavoidable and the deployment of the airbag is both possible and beneficial. If these decisions are all affirmative, the system ignites the inflators to fill the airbag. The airbag, which has a capacity of between 280 and 400 liters (five to eight times the volume of a driver airbag) depending on the vehicle, then expands upwards from the side sill to form an additional crumple zone in the door area between the A and C pillars.

How the technology could save lives

In a side impact collision, the occupants on the side of the impact are at particular risk of serious injuries in the chest area if the passenger cabin is severely deformed. The ZF pre-crash safety system can reduce the penetration of the intruding vehicle by up to 30 percent, helping to significantly reduce the occupants’ risk of injury.

The predictive information about an unavoidable collision also helps to further improve the effectiveness of established standard safety technology. For example, the ACR8 Active Control Retractor can warn the occupants or help secure them in a safe position in the critical fractions of a second before the collision.