ZF LIFETEC Innovates Dual Contour Airbag for Enhanced Safety in Automated Driving

ZF LIFETEC Innovates Dual Contour Airbag for Enhanced Safety in Automated Driving

(IN BRIEF) ZF LIFETEC, a division of ZF Group based in Alfdorf, Germany, has introduced advanced dual contour airbag technology aimed at enhancing safety in automated driving scenarios. The dual contour airbag adjusts its size and inflation pressure based on the driver’s seating position, ensuring optimal protection even in relaxed or reclined postures. This innovation addresses the challenge posed by traditional airbags, which may not adequately protect occupants in non-standard seating positions during crashes.

(PRESS RELEASE) ALFDORF, 19-Jun-2024 — /EuropaWire/ — ZF LIFETEC, based in Alfdorf, Germany, has developed innovative airbag technology tailored for advanced automated driving scenarios, addressing the need for enhanced safety in non-standard seating positions. As automated driving systems evolve, allowing drivers to recline and engage less with vehicle operations, ZF LIFETEC’s dual contour airbag solution ensures optimal protection even in relaxed seating configurations.

The new dual contour airbag, initially designed for the passenger side and soon to be available for drivers, offers two inflation sizes depending on the occupant’s seating posture—standard upright or more reclined. This innovation is crucial as crash tests have revealed that traditional safety systems might not fully protect occupants in comfort seating positions, where the distance between the airbag and occupant increases significantly.

ZF LIFETEC’s solution involves a dual-stage inflator system that adjusts the airbag’s volume and inflation pressure based on real-time data from sensors and interior cameras. This adaptive approach allows the airbag to provide effective restraint tailored to the occupant’s stature and weight, enhancing safety outcomes beyond conventional standards.

Harald Lutz, Head of Development at ZF LIFETEC, emphasized the technology’s capability to meet stringent safety requirements and adapt to future automotive trends, ensuring comprehensive protection in all driving scenarios. The development underscores ZF LIFETEC’s commitment to advancing automotive safety through innovative airbag solutions designed for the complexities of modern vehicle environments.

One airbag, two sizes

Crash tests have shown that if a frontal crash occurs while the front occupants are in the comfort seat position – a backrest angle of around 40 degrees – the classic combination of seat belt and airbag may no longer provide optimum protection for the occupants. In this position, the distance between the inflated airbag and the occupant is too great to optimally cushion and restrain the passenger. It is important to note that the 90-degree angle from the backrest to the seat surface is defined as 0 in this recline specification — meaning that the normal seating position is around 20 degrees. With a view to automated driving, a solution is needed that offers a high level of safety for both positions. This is the idea behind the dual contour airbag. Put simply, the solution consists of an airbag that is designed for the standard seating position that can also be enlarged when the occupants are in a comfort seating position.

During development, ZF LIFETEC utilized experience gained from the development of a dual-contour passenger airbag, which will be ready for application this year. The new driver airbag also offers two stages, which extend accordingly depending on whether the person behind the steering wheel is in an upright or comfort seating position. The two-stage function can be regulated via a control unit that switches a system of bag-cushion-tethers. These tethers are connected to an active release unit, which releases them as required.

Inflator for extra volume

In order for the dual-contour driver airbag to fully deploy, the gas filling volume must be increased. This requires a two-stage gas generator, which ZF LIFETEC has developed for airbags with particularly large volumes. It can fill the two volume sizes of the driver airbag integrated in the steering wheel within milliseconds. Lutz emphasizes that this type of airbag can provide a depth adaptivity of approximately 200 mm on the driver’s side. The maximum total inflation volume of a dual-contour airbag is currently achieved on the passenger side and is up to 190 liters, which is unique on the market. “This is the absolute benchmark in this field,” noted Lutz. He emphasized, “ZF LIFETEC thus offers a high level of safety and covers all future requirements in terms of adaptivity.”

Adjusted filling pressure

As the airbag control system is integrated into the car’s electronics, the vehicle can identify which seat position the driver is in at the moment of the crash and which stage of the gas generator needs to be triggered. In addition to seat tilt and weight sensors, other sensors, such as interior cameras, can be integrated into the system for a more precise assessment of the scenario in the interior.

It is possible to implement a further adaptation in the dual-contour airbag. This allows the inflation pressure of the airbag to be varied depending on the size, weight and stature of the occupants. If sensors or interior cameras provide the relevant information and detect a tall, heavy person behind the steering wheel, for example, air vents can be opened to modulate the inflation pressure and thus optimize restraint for the occupant. “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.

Media Contacts:

Knut Zimmer
Press Officer, ZF LIFETEC
+49 171 1506727
knut.zimmer@zf.com

Mirko Gutemann
Software-defined Vehicle, Integrated Safety
+49 7541 77-960136
mirko.gutemann@zf.com

SOURCE: ZF Friedrichshafen AG

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