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ZF makes the benefits of external airbags clear

The car parts manufacturer ZF Group has released some safety data that could get automakers to consider the benefits of external airbags. However, Connecticut residents should know that external airbags, like self-driving cars, are far from being perfected, much less implemented on vehicles.

ZF discovered that external airbags mitigate the severity of vehicle occupant injuries by up to 40 percent. The manufacturer has created a model that goes on both sides of a vehicle and acts as an extra crumple zone, absorbing the shock of a side-impact crash. The model is about 80 inches long, 21 inches high and 15 inches wide and weighs 13 pounds. The dimensions will vary with the vehicle.

Having a predictive system deploy airbags is a drastic solution compared to what current systems do (such as tightening seatbelts and adjusting suspension). That's why some fear the danger of a predictive system not sensing an impending crash in time and of the airbags not deploying. On the other hand, airbags may deploy at random times, causing needless damage.

ZF points to rapid advances in lidar, radar, ultrasonics and camera technology as providing the answer to these challenges. Its external airbags are already impressive with their 15-millisecond inflation time. This is comparable to the deployment time of steering wheel airbags.

Even with external airbags and other safety features, drivers are still expected to maintain control over their vehicle at all times. If they become distracted, drowsy or negligent in any other way and cause a car accident, their auto insurance company may find itself facing a personal injury claim. Victims, for their part, can have a lawyer build up the case for them with the help of accident investigators and other third parties. The lawyer can then negotiate for a reasonable settlement.

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