Germany’s ZF Develops External Side Airbag Prototype

ZF, which is based in Germany and has offices in Farmington Hills, has developed a pre-crash external side airbag prototype that deploys milliseconds before a collision, providing an additional lateral crumple zone. The company networked the airbags to the vehicle’s sensor systems and developed algorithms that are capable of determining whether a crash is imminent and whether to deploy the airbag.
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car equipped with ZF's external side airbag
ZF has developed external airbags that deploy from the side of a vehicle milliseconds before a collision. // Photo courtesy of ZF

ZF, which is based in Germany and has offices in Farmington Hills, has developed a pre-crash external side airbag prototype that deploys milliseconds before a collision, providing an additional lateral crumple zone. The company networked the airbags to the vehicle’s sensor systems and developed algorithms that are capable of determining whether a crash is imminent and whether to deploy the airbag.

“Our deep understanding of the entire ‘see. think. act.’ process enables us to conceptualize and realize integrated vehicle safety solutions such as the new pre-crash safety system,” says Uwe Class, head of the company’s safe mobility systems department.

The system has about 150 milliseconds, or the time it takes to blink, to determine whether to deploy and fill the airbag. Its sensors use connected cameras, radar, and lidar. Algorithms decide whether a collision is unavoidable and whether deployment is possible and beneficial.

The airbag has five-eight times the volume of a driver airbag, depending on the vehicle, then expands upward from the side sill to form an additional crumple zone in the door area between the A and C pillars.

The system can reduce penetration into the passenger cabin by the intruding vehicle by up to 30 percent and reduce occupant injury severity by up to 40 percent. The company reported side impact collisions are among the most dangerous type of traffic accidents because they can cause injuries to the chest if the passenger cabin is severely deformed.

ZF is a global technology company that supplies systems for passenger cars, commercial vehicles, and industrial technology. It has a global workforce of about 149,000 and a presence in 40 countries.

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