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ZF looks to external airbags to protect drivers from side crashes

Drivers in Iowa may benefit from the protection that external airbags afford, but they should not hold their breath for it. Car parts manufacturers have yet to perfect the technology; still, they are clear about the benefits. The ZF Group has released new safety data showing that in the event of a side collision, external airbags could mitigate the severity of occupants' injuries by up to 40 percent.

ZF has its own strategy for developing external airbags. These will go on the sides of a vehicle, acting as an extra crumple zone and absorbing the shock of a side impact crash. The manufacturer will look to the rapid advances in lidar, radar, ultrasonics and camera technology to address certain challenges.

For example, the airbags need to deploy a split second before a crash, and the predictive system must be able to recognize the vital details of an impending crash. Lastly, the airbags should not deploy at unnecessary times. The stakes are higher than with other predictive systems, which protect occupants by tightening their seat belts or adjusting the suspension.

ZF's model is approximately 80 inches long, 21 inches high and 15 inches wide although these figures will vary depending on the vehicle. It weighs about 13 pounds. Despite its bulk, it boasts an inflation time of 15 milliseconds, similar to that of steering wheel airbags.

Such technology may reduce the severity of car accidents but will obviously not prevent them. As long as drivers are in control of the wheel, there is the possibility of negligent driving. The victims of negligence may be covered for their injuries and vehicle damage, in addition to lost wages, lost earning capacity and any physical or emotional distress, if they file a claim. They may have a lawyer negotiate on their behalf with the defendant's auto insurance provider.

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