Don’t you just hate getting T-boned? We sure do. But in the future, the act of getting sideswiped may be a teeny-weeny bit less painful.
It’s all thanks to ZF (well-known manufacturer of deliciously smooth eight-speed automatic gearboxes) who believes pre-crash external side airbags are the future of crashing.
Airbags are hidden everywhere in cars nowadays (curtain rails/seatbelts/knees) but ZF wants to add them outside cars, specifically door sills. Think of them as a giant lilo-sized skirting board that explodes out the side of the car to protect the car’s occupants like a giant ‘talk-to-the-hand-coz-the-face-ain’t-listening’. Depending on the car they’re attached to, the squishy airbags have a capacity of 280-400 litres (that’s five to eight times your normal steering-wheel airbag), and expand upwards from the side sill to form an additional crumple zone in the door area between the A and C pillars.
Thanks to a smattering of sensors that rely on connected cameras, radar and lidar, the system takes approximately 150 milliseconds to make the decision of whether to deploy the airbag and fill it to soften the blow of a side-impact collision (either if you’ve been boffed by another car, or oversteered yourself into a lamppost). According to ZF, this new technology could reduce injury severity for side impacts by 40 per cent for passengers.