Nicholson, Silverbach, & Watson

ZF develops airbags to protect against side collisions

Georgia motorists may have heard of external airbags, which some car parts manufacturers are working to develop. It will likely be a while before such technology is implemented on vehicles. When external airbags are made standard, however, they could prove beneficial to drivers and other vehicle occupants. The ZF Group has found that external airbags lessen the severity of injuries by up to 40 percent.

ZF is developing its own external airbags to go on the sides of vehicles. By providing an additional crumple zone, they can absorb some of the force of a side impact. It all depends, of course, on having a predictive system that recognizes the vital details of an impending crash. The system must be able to deploy the airbags a split second before the crash. Another challenge is keeping the airbags from deploying needlessly.

These concerns are justified because current predictive systems do not do anything so drastic as deploying airbags. Some protect occupants by adjusting a vehicle's suspension or tightening the seatbelts. However, ZF believes that camera and sensor technology is advancing fast enough to eventually put these concerns to rest.

ZF's own external airbag model has an inflation time of 15 milliseconds, which is equivalent to that of steering wheel airbags. Some consider this an impressive figure because the airbags weigh 13 pounds.

Many safety features, particularly driver-assistance systems, are liable to make drivers complacent and negligent behind the wheel. When negligence is behind a car accident, the victim may be eligible for damages. A personal injury claim against the at-fault party could cover vehicle damage, medical bills, lost wages and more. Legal counsel could help a victim file a claim.

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