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ZF says external airbags reduce severity of side impact injuries

Side impact crashes are some of the most severe car crashes in California. Many car parts manufacturers, however, are working to perfect the technology behind external airbags. According to one of these manufacturers, the ZF Group, external airbags can reduce the injury severity of side collisions by up to 40 percent. This could encourage others to consider the technology.

ZF's external airbag model goes on a vehicle's sides and acts as an additional crumple zone, absorbing the shock of the crash. It weighs about 13 pounds, and its dimensions are 80 inches by 15 inches by 21 inches. Despite its size, it has an inflation time of 15 milliseconds, which is comparable to that of the typical steering wheel airbag.

ZF believes that rapid advances in lidar, radar, ultrasonics and camera technology will let them create sensors that recognize the vital details of an impending crash and react accordingly. The airbags ideally should deploy a split second before the crash. They should also never deploy at unnecessary times. Such challenges must be met since the deploying of airbags is a more drastic measure than, for example, the automatic tightening of seatbelts or the adjustment of a vehicle's suspension. Like self-driving cars, external airbags will likely not become standard features for a while.

Auto accidents result in vehicle damage, pain and suffering and conditions that may require long-term medical care. However, victims might be covered for these and other losses if they show that they were not at fault or were only partially at fault. Filing a claim may require legal assistance. A lawyer might hire third parties like accident investigators and medical experts to help bolster settlement negotiations or take the case to court.

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