ZF showcases external side airbags [Video]

The tech can reduce the severity of a side impact collision.

Automakers have figured out how to cover virtually every square inch of a vehicle's interior with airbag protection, so for its latest airbag tech, supplier ZF is quite literally thinking outside of the box.

Last week ZF showcased a world first in vehicle safety -- an external airbag system intended to greatly reduce the forces associated with side impact crashes.

Unlike a traditional airbag, ZF's external side airbag -- which mounts in the sill of the vehicle and runs from the A to C pillar -- inflates just before an impact. The system uses cameras, lidar and radar to detect a side impact, and it can react and inflate the airbag within 150 milliseconds.

According to ZF, the external airbag system can reduce the severity of a side impact collision by up to 40 percent. "We highlighted that this safety system has the potential to significantly reduce occupant injury severity in cases of side impact collisions,” explains Uwe Class, Head of the Safe Mobility Systems department, within ZF's Advanced Engineering team.

At this point the external airbag system is simply a prototype, but it could one day makes its way to a production vehicle.

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