What Will Airbags Of The Future Look Like?

Mon 3rd Dec 2018

An influential German motor engineering firm has revealed a number of innovations to the traditional airbag design which could save drivers of the future, including those in driverless cars.

ZF Group have been designing, researching and developing motor technology since first producing gears for Zeppelins and airships in 1915. The company now employs 138,000 people across 40 countries and this week attended ‘Airbag 2018’ in Mannheim, Germany, a tradeshow with the aim of demonstrating the very latest airbag technology.

The historic engineering company made headlines at the event with a number of ideas for airbag technology, including lightweight knee airbags, dual-contour airbags and far-side airbags, but it was the development of ‘external pre-crash airbags’ which caught the eye.

The pre-crash airbag is mounted on the side of autonomous vehicles and can detect when another fast moving vehicle is approaching from the side and will deploy to protect both colliding cars. Traditional airbags were first conceived in the 1950s and have always been based on reactive processes, with the devices firing within milliseconds of the vehicle detecting an impact. But it is believed that ZF’s airbag technology is the first to pre-empt a crash and deploy on the exterior of the vehicle.

Occupant safety is paramount when developing new vehicles for automated and autonomous driving," said Dr Michael Büchsner, Head of ZF's Passive Safety Systems Division.

"Our concept of the pre-crash external side airbag is a great example of how ZF wants to achieve its Vision Zero, a world without accidents and emissions."

Whilst the pre-crash airbag may take some years before introduction to the road network, some of the designs are expected to go into production very soon, including the ‘far-side airbags’ which are designed to protect car passengers from colliding with each other during a crash.

Norbert Kagerer, Head of Development at ZF's Passive Safety Systems Division said: The new test requirements of Euro NCAP, scheduled to be introduced by 2020, extend occupant safety requirements for the side facing away from the occupants in case of a side impact.

"In the future, the far-side airbag may be necessary in order to receive a five-star crash safety rating."