Outside airbags, the next step in car safety image

In its quest to improve car safety, the automotive industry is constantly bringing new ideas to the table, and external airbags is one of them.

The automotive world is currently shaken by the safety crisis provoked by Takata’s explosive inflators. Nevertheless, airbags still continue to be the best passive protection feature invented by the industry, alongside seatbelts. The automakers are constantly looking for new ideas to bring more inflating cushions into the cabin to enhance occupants’ safety, working closely with suppliers to implement new features. Recently, ZF TRW, the Active and Passive Safety Technology Division of ZF AG, has come up with a new central airbag placed between the driver and front seat passenger. With so many inflators inside the car, there is hardly any room for more. Therefore, the companies have started to look for other places to pad, developing new devices to buffer a vehicle’s exterior. Even if this new type of airbags is not quite ready to go into production, it clearly indicates an upcoming trend of the safety approach. For example, ZF showed at the Consumer Electronics Show last month an external airbag system, with the aim of making it workable as soon as 2020.

The supplier designed a pre-crash outside airbag that deploys from the external side structure of the car to help protect passengers in the event of a side impact crash, by partially absorbing the energy of a collision by about 30 percent. “It’s definitely intriguing,” Steve Peterson, ZF TRW’s director of global systems engineering for occupant safety, said. “I think it could make sense, especially for a small car that sits low to the ground.” Even if the system is in its early stages, “there are a lot of people in the industry working on that,” he noted. “The technology is getting better.” It is now a new idea for the airbags to be fitted outside a car, as the Volvo V40 features an airbag hidden under the hood, which deploys during a collision with a pedestrian to protect him.

Via Automotive News