ZF networked external vehicle sensor systems — which include cameras, radar, lidar and software — to the external side airbags to create the Prosip system.
It is part of an ongoing reinvention of the company mirroring that of many suppliers. Over the past four years, ZF has gone from primarily manufacturing traditional automotive components to working on advanced vehicle technologies such as crash-prediction systems, building much of that expertise through acquisitions.
ZF demonstrated Prosip to the media in Memmingen, Germany, last July. The system has approximately 150 milliseconds to make the decision to deploy the airbag, according to Georges Halsdorf, lead engineer on the ZF advanced development team.
The bag sits below the doors, along the bottom sill, and grows to the size of a life raft upon inflating.
Predictive airbags long had been a pipe dream for auto suppliers such as ZF.
This technology shows how significant sensors will be in making more advanced vehicle technologies happen. Nontraditional seating arrangements in autonomous shuttles likely will require a change in airbag placement and different passenger protection. And growing V2X — or vehicle-to-everything — technology could also enhance the use cases of a system such as this.
Halsdorf said full development of Prosip may take another four to five years. He added that the external airbag system likely would appear first in luxury cars with highly developed sensor sets.