External Airbags Could be Heading to Future Cars

In the future, cars could come equipped with external airbags to help enhance safety.

Airbag manufacturers are working on a new generation of airbags that are designed to deploy outside a vehicle in the event of an accident. These aren’t made to protect the car’s body, but rather soften the blow to occupants inside the cabin. ZF TRW recently showcased an external side-airbag that would protect a car if it was T-boned by another vehicle. After a series of crash tests the company found that this innovative airbag could reduce the force of a side collision by 30 percent, which is huge.

External airbags have already passed their initial tests in Europe, where they are used to protect pedestrians in head-on collisions. Volvo, for example, has equipped the V40 with an airbag that is mounted underneath the hood. It deploys in a collision with a pedestrian to cushion the A-pillars and bottom half of the windshield. In addition, the rear of the hood is lifted when the airbag is deployed to further help protect the pedestrian.

SEE ALSO: Google Self-Driving Car May Have Outside Airbags

As for ZF TRW’s side external airbag, it features a volume of 200 liters meaning that it is about twice the size of a conventional side-curtain airbag. As a result, it currently requires two inflators to fill and because of the extra time needed, it actually deploys just before the collision. Knowing that, there are some hurdles to overcome, mainly to ensure that the technology used to predict a possible side-impact collision is foolproof so that the airbag doesn’t accidentally deploy. An external airbag will also have to withstand the corrosive effects of rain, snow, dirt and road salt.

“There are a lot of people in the industry working on that,” said Steve Peterson, ZF TRW’s director of global systems engineering for occupant safety. “The technology is getting better.”

[Source: Automotive News]