It’s no surprise that side impact collisions can cause great injuries to a vehicle’s occupants; their bodies are so close to the door that injuries can be much greater than even a head-on collision. To address this, vehicle manufacturers have been offering side impact airbags for years, and these are very effective in crash situations.
But can more be done to prevent side-impact injuries? A company called ZF TRW thinks it might be possible, and has developed a new type of airbag, one that is mounted and deploys on the outside of the vehicle. The external airbag is about twice as large as an internal side impact airbag, and helps absorb some of the crash energy before it’s transmitted to the occupants.
Since the airbag would need to deploy before contact occurs, sensors would be needed to detect an imminent collision, firing the inflating charges earlier than traditional, inside-the-vehicle airbags. It’s estimated that this type of airbag could reduce crash forces by about 30%. Given the severity of side-impact collisions, this could really help prevent injuries.
Though a prototype version was demonstrated at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, much more work is needed, to address issues such as potential corrosion and preventing false deployments.