Advanced Airbags for Automated Driving

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ZF LIFETEC introduces an advanced airbag system for automated driving, ensuring heightened safety and comfort for drivers and passengers.

Key Highlights:

  • Dual Contour Airbag: Adaptable for various seating positions in automated vehicles.
  • Inflation Technology: Utilizes advanced inflator for larger airbags with adjustable internal pressure.
  • Safety and Comfort: Ensures protection in both upright and reclined seating positions.

When automated driving becomes a reality, flexible seating positions will be an option for drivers and passengers. To ensure optimal protection in the event of a crash, even in more relaxed seating positions, new airbag concepts are essential. ZF LIFETEC has developed a dual contour airbag for the passenger side, which inflates in two sizes depending on the seating position. The company is also developing a similar airbag for the driver’s side, catering to the next generation of partially or fully automated vehicles.

With Level 3 highly automated driving, more vehicles can allow drivers to turn away from the traffic when the system is activated, provided they can retake control if necessary. At Level 4, vehicles may cover certain routes independently, allowing drivers to adopt a more comfortable seating position.

Traditional occupant protection systems are designed for the standard upright seating position. “Our aim is to ensure that occupants in comfort seating positions also enjoy at least the same safety standards they are accustomed to in automated driving,” said Harald Lutz, Head of Development at ZF LIFETEC.

One Airbag, Two Sizes

Crash tests indicate that a standard airbag may not provide optimal protection for occupants in a reclined position. The classic combination of seat belt and airbag is less effective when the backrest is angled around 40 degrees, as the distance between the inflated airbag and the occupant increases. To address this, ZF LIFETEC’s dual contour airbag can expand to accommodate the comfort seating position, ensuring effective protection.

During development, ZF LIFETEC leveraged experience from a dual-contour passenger airbag, set to be available this year. The new driver airbag also offers two stages, extending according to the occupant’s seating position. A control unit regulates this function, switching a system of bag-cushion-tethers connected to an active release unit.

Inflator for Extra Volume

For the dual-contour driver airbag to fully deploy, it requires an increased gas filling volume. ZF LIFETEC has developed a two-stage gas generator for airbags with larger volumes, capable of filling the driver airbag integrated into the steering wheel within milliseconds. This type of airbag offers a depth adaptivity of approximately 200 mm on the driver’s side. The passenger side airbag can inflate up to 190 liters, setting a benchmark in the industry. “This is the absolute benchmark in this field,” noted Lutz.

Adjusted Filling Pressure

The vehicle’s electronics can identify the driver’s seat position at the moment of the crash and trigger the appropriate stage of the gas generator. Additional sensors, such as interior cameras, can provide a more precise assessment. This adaptive system allows the inflation pressure of the airbag to vary depending on the occupant’s size, weight, and stature. “With this adaptive system, which ZF LIFETEC already offers in other airbags in series applications, the restraint function of the airbag in many vehicles is already more efficient today and at the same time takes into account the ‘real-life safety’ approach,” summarized Lutz.

ZF LIFETEC’s innovative airbag system represents a significant advancement in occupant protection for automated driving, offering enhanced safety and adaptability for future vehicles.

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Self Drive News
Self Drive News

Self Drive News is a premier B2B digital resource meticulously curated for industry professionals, stakeholders, and enthusiasts in the rapidly accelerating world of autonomous vehicles. Rooted in innovation and forward-thinking, we deliver insightful, reliable, and up-to-the-minute news, connecting the diverse and dynamic strands of the autonomous vehicle industry under one interactive platform.