External airbags are an emerging safety feature that could reduce vehicle occupants’ injuries by as much as 40 percent. This is according to new safety data from the ZF Group, one of many car parts manufacturers that are developing external airbag technology. While these airbags are far from being perfected, much less implemented on vehicles, ZF has a concrete strategy for moving forward.
ZF’s external airbag model weighs 13 pounds, and its dimensions are approximately 80 inches by 15 inches by 21 inches. The airbags go on both sides of a vehicle to protect it against side-impact crashes. By providing an extra crumple zone, they can absorb the force of the crash. Their inflation time is an impressive 15 milliseconds, equivalent to that of the much lighter steering wheel airbag.
Having the predictive system deploy it in time is one particular challenge. Another is getting the system to recognize all the vital details of an impending crash. There are also concerns of airbags deploying at unnecessary times. Since deploying airbags is more far-reaching than, say, tightening seat belts or adjusting suspension, the concerns are justified.
For its part, ZF is looking to rapidly advancing lidar, radar, ultrasonics and camera technology for ways to overcome these challenges. Its strategy and safety data together may encourage other manufacturers to look into external airbags.
While vehicle occupants may not incur such serious injuries in an auto accident, they could still be left with medical bills, vehicle repair costs and lost wages. If the other driver was negligent, victims might consider filing a personal injury claim with the help of a lawyer. Once the police report and other evidence have been gathered, and once medical experts have established the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries, the lawyer may be able to negotiate for a settlement with the auto insurance company.