Leading automotive supplier ZF is developing a new type of in-seat airbag that, when deployed, will stop an occupant from moving into the center of a vehicle’s cabin.
With the number of airbags already integrated within the typical modern car from the dashboard to the roof lining, adding yet another may not seem like the biggest of developments within the automotive world. But it’s innovations like this that will help semi-autonomous cars become a reality, especially on roads where the vast majority of vehicles are still being driven by people, not algorithms and sensor arrays.
“The introduction of automated vehicles means occupant protection systems will evolve, not disappear,” said Frank Laakmann, engineering director for occupant safety at ZF TRW. And even though most of us imagine being able to move around the car freely and do other things while in transit once these technologies become a reality, safety will still be a real issue and one that companies will have to address with new and novel solutions. “Giving occupants more freedom requires new airbag concepts and seatbelts with additional functionalities,” Laakmann explains.
This new airbag, which is designed to deploy from one side of a passenger seat and hold the occupant in place, rather than moving into the center of the car or striking the other front-seat passenger, is a first step towards this goal. What makes the system innovative is that it cushions the shoulder and head and as a result can keep the occupant in position without using the car’s dashboard or center console as a secondary cushion.
The first real-world cars to boast genuine self-driving smarts aren’t expected to appear until 2021. However, based on existing crash data, independent safety organization EuroNCAP is already considering how carmakers can further reduce the severity of injuries caused by side impacts.
“Euro NCAP is considering future testing protocols in the 2020 timeframe where far side impact protection will become an increasingly important influencing factor for side crashworthiness ratings,” said Dirk Schultz, head of Inflatable Restraint Systems engineering for ZF’s Active and Passive Safety Division. – AFP Relaxnews