ZF LIFETEC Augments Automotive Safety With Dual Contour Airbag For Automated Driving

T Murrali
20 Jun 2024
01:16 PM
2 Min Read

As the industry moves towards fully automated driving, innovations like these will be crucial in maintaining and enhancing occupant protection.


As automated driving inches closer to reality, the automotive industry faces the challenge of ensuring optimal safety for drivers and passengers in various seating positions. Recognising this need, ZF LIFETEC has introduced groundbreaking dual contour airbag technology, designed to provide superior protection regardless of seating configuration.

Adaptive Safety For New Era

With the advent of Level 3 highly automated driving, drivers can momentarily divert their attention from the road, provided they are ready to take control when necessary. As the industry progresses to Level 4 automation, where vehicles can handle entire routes independently, drivers will have the freedom to adjust their seats to more comfortable positions. This evolution necessitates airbags that adapt to these new seating arrangements.

According to Harald Lutz, Head of Development at ZF LIFETEC, the company aims to ensure that occupants in comfort seating positions also enjoy at least the same safety standards they are accustomed to in automated driving. This vision has led to the development of the dual contour airbag, which adjusts its inflation size based on the seating position, providing optimal protection whether the occupant is sitting upright or reclined.

Dual-Contour Airbag: Adaptive Safety For Every Seating Position

Traditional airbags and seatbelts may not offer adequate protection when occupants are in a reclined position, as the distance between the occupant and the airbag is too large. To address this, ZF LIFETEC has engineered an airbag that can deploy in two different sizes. This dual contour airbag ensures safety by adjusting its inflation volume to match the occupant's seating position.

Utilising experience from developing a similar passenger airbag, ZF LIFETEC’s new driver airbag offers a two-stage deployment system. This system uses a control unit that switches a series of bag-cushion-tethers, connected to an active release unit that adjusts the airbag's size as needed.

Enhanced Inflation Mechanics

For the dual contour airbag to function effectively, the gas filling volume must be increased. ZF LIFETEC has developed a two-stage gas generator capable of filling the airbag’s two volume sizes within milliseconds. This technology allows the driver’s airbag to achieve a depth adaptivity of approximately 200 mm, while the passenger airbag can reach up to 190 litres in total inflation volume—a benchmark in the industry.

Intelligent Control Systems

Integrated into the vehicle’s electronics, the airbag control system can detect the driver’s seating position at the moment of a crash and trigger the appropriate inflation stage. Advanced sensors and interior cameras provide precise data on the occupant's size, weight, and posture, allowing the system to modulate the airbag’s inflation pressure for optimal restraint.

This adaptive system, already in use in its other airbags, enhances the efficiency of the restraint function, embodying the ‘real-life safety’ approach. By tailoring the airbag’s response to individual occupants, the company ensures that safety measures are both effective and personalised.

Pioneering Future Of Automotive Safety

ZF LIFETEC’s dual contour airbag represents a significant leap forward in automotive safety. As the industry moves towards fully automated driving, innovations like these will be crucial in maintaining and enhancing occupant protection. With a commitment to adapting to future requirements, it continues to set the standard for safety in the evolving landscape of automated driving.

This revolutionary approach not only addresses current challenges but also paves the way for a safer, more adaptive driving experience, ensuring that comfort does not come at the expense of safety.

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