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ZF shows external pre-crash airbag

ZF shows external pre-crash airbag

Technology News |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt



Autonomous driving with new seat configurations will change restraint systems. Typically, the driver will not always sit in the same position behind the steering wheel, but will read, work, relax, and perhaps take a nap. Interior designers have even provided rotating seats for autonomously driving cars, in which the passengers from the front and rear seats can turn to each other. In all these seating positions, today’s passive safety systems, designed for seat belts and airbags, fail.

ZF has therefore introduced a number of new concepts. Probably the most spectacular is an airbag that is no longer installed in the interior, but serves as an external component in an accident as an additional crumple zone and thus protects the entire vehicle. Tests have shown that the injury severity for vehicle occupants can be reduced by up to 40 percent, ZF says. The manufacturer has provided appropriate triggering strategies for various types of accidents – in the event of a collision with a pole or a motorcycle, the airbag triggers differently than in a frontal accident against a wall or another vehicle.

In addition to the increasing networking of active and passive safety technologies, occupant protection must also be adapted to new seating positions. The design of restraint systems such as airbags and seat belts must be designed to help protect the occupants even in the flexible positions – and increasingly also to be integrated into the seat. Adaptive dual-contour airbags play an important role here. These airbags are designed in such a way that their shape and size can be adjusted to the occupant’s position.


In order to reduce the risk of injury for the driver and front passenger in the event of a side impact on the side facing away from the occupant, the development of the “far-side airbag” at ZF has also made considerable progress. The new test requirements of the Euro NCAP, which are to be introduced by 2020, extend the requirements for occupant protection in the event of a side impact on the side facing away from the driver,” emphasizes Norbert Kagerer, Development Manager of the ZF Passive Safety Technology Division.

In the foreseeable future, steering wheels for partially or highly automated vehicles with new design features will continue to develop. In addition to the classic circular shape, flattened and partially open shapes will appear on the market and, in combination with folding mechanisms, provide more freedom of movement for the occupants. In addition, integrated displays, for example, will increase interaction with the occupants and the control options for the interior systems via the steering wheel.

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Occupant protection technology is focusing on automated driving

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Bosch, Freescale collaborate on airbag platform

Autoliv, MIT join forces in autonomous vehicle research

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