A new way to soften the blow. (ZF)

External airbags could turn cars into pufferfish for safety

Pufferfish “puff’ to defend themselves, and cars may soon do the same.

Automotive supplier ZF has demonstrated an external airbag designed to soften the blow of side impacts.

(ZF)

The system uses cameras, radar and lidar to determine if a T-bone type crash is imminent and deploys the airbag if it thinks it will help, all within the time it takes to blink an eye.

According to the company, the airbag can reduce passenger injuries up to 40 percent by reducing the amount of penetration into the cabin by the second vehicle.

(ZF)

Audi has introduced a similar concept on some of its A8 sedans that uses the suspension to lift the side of the car three inches when radars sense a collision is about to occur so that the rigid chassis takes more of the impact, but it only works up to 37.5 mph.

(Audi)

ZF hasn’t said if the system will go into production, but won’t be the first external bag put in use if it does.

Volvo has offered an airbag on some European models that pops out of the top of the hood to cover the windshield an roof pillars in the event of a pedestrian impact.