Mercedes developing undercarriage airbag system

German luxury automaker Mercedes-Benz has unveiled a myriad of new safety features, and among them is an advanced application of airbag technology that is used to help slow vehicles in the event of an imminent frontal collision.

According to a report by Boston Globe correspondent Keith Griffin, Mercedes-Benz unveiled a handful of new advanced safety technologies including an advanced external airbag deployment system to a handful of reporters at the automaker's U.S. headquarters in Montvale, New Jersey.

One of the most intriguing concepts unveiled was that of an undercarriage airbag system that deploys 80 to 100 milliseconds before an imminent collision in an effort to reduce the force of the impact. The airbag works by accomplishing three things. First, it launches a unique airbag with a rubber and steel undercoating that makes contact with the ground and acts like a fifth tire to add stopping friction to the road. Second, the airbag forces the vehicle upward by three inches - a change that results in greater stopping power by increasing effective weight. Third, the raised height of the vehicle optimizes the vehicle's impact zone to better distribute the force of an impact.

Mercedes-Benz senior staff engineer, David Selke, told the Boston Globe that the undercarriage airbag effectively adds six to eight inches of virtual crumple zone by aligning the crumple zone and reducing speed. Selke added that the system also results in more effective interior restraint systems by moving the seats toward the occupants by approximately one inch - resulting in a firmer hold by the seatbelts.

Griffin clarified to Leftlane that the system is intended only to deploy in the event of an unavoidable accident, and is not capable of being re-used without being serviced. Mercedes also revealed testing of gas-fired metal guardrails in the side doors, an innovative child safety seat that has an open back, interior airbags to keep passengers from landing on each other during a rollover and a shoulder-strap belt bag for passengers in the rear-seats.

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