ZF Friedrichshafen is a German aftermarket auto parts manufacturer, producing chassis and driveline technology as well as active and passive safety systems for vehicles. Aftermarket parts are made separately from car manufacturers and can serve as replacements or appearance and performance enhancements. They contrast with OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) parts, which are created by the car manufacturer itself.
ZF has recently unveiled its new side airbag technology, currently in the prototype stage. Read on to learn a little more about how this airbag works and what this new technology could mean for safety in the automotive industry.
A Bit About the New ZF Airbag for Students in Auto Technician Courses
The ZF external side airbag is located underneath the door sills on the side of the car, and expands upwards when activated. Activation for this airbag occurs pre-crash, with the device measuring the approaching impact to deploy before contact is made.
As the airbag is external, it operates differently from internal side airbags, normally located in the door or ceiling of a car. These bags protect the occupants’ bodies, remaining inflated in case of vehicle rollover. This new airbag, on the other hand, operates in a manner that’s a little closer to another familiar vehicle safety feature. If you are thinking about a mechanic program, you likely know the importance of the crumple zone at the front of a vehicle, which provides space to absorb kinetic energy from a crash. Similarly, by placing an airbag on the outside of a vehicle, an extra crumple zone is created to absorb the energy from impact.
How the Bag Is Activated, Explained for Tech Fans in a Mechanic Program
The Active Control Reactor (ACR) controls the side airbag and is connected to sensors, cameras, radars, and lidars. Lidars are different from radars in that they use pulses of light from lasers, instead of electromagnetic waves, to detect objects. The ACR has the ability to detect incoming crashes before impact and respond accordingly, deploying the airbag within 150 milliseconds.
The ACR is also interesting for its ability to provide other benefits. It contains both an electromechanical pretensioner and a pyrotechnic pretensioner. Pretensioners are key to vehicle safety, as they tighten seatbelts in the case of crashes, providing protection to the vehicle occupants. It can also provide haptic feedback to drivers, warning them of dangers. Haptic technology serves to communicate by providing touch sensations to users, like when a phone vibrates to indicate a notification.
When Can We Expect to See More of this Airbag?
While the product is said to be ready for mass market production, it likely won’t show up on the market for a while. Things that need to be checked before it becomes available include consistency of reaction time, as well as whether the bag’s sensors can accidentally activate due to faulty reads. Any car repair course will show you the importance of quality parts. That said, the company claims that this airbag can reduce occupant injuries by up to 40%, suggesting that it might be good to get these on some cars pretty soon.
The airbag would be different from what we’re used to. It inflates to a volume of 280-400 litres and measures 9.9-14.1 feet in size. It’s 5-8 times bigger than a standard airbag and reduces penetration of the cabin by up to 30%. Injuries to the chest are very common in passengers who are involved in side-impact collisions, where the cabin area can collapse inward. This could be a great contribution to the industry, which professionals can look forward to.
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