Volvo premiered a world-first pedestrian airbag system with its new V40 hatch, but at least one company looks set to up the ante before the decade is out.
Industry supplier TRW has confirmed it is developing new external airbags that will deploy from beneath a vehicle's doors the instant before a side impact, significantly increasing passenger protection.
“Side crashes are still one of the highest accident rates, accounting for 37-40 per cent of accidents,” TRW's Norbert Kagerer told British paper Auto Express in an interview.
The system uses two inflators to ensure rapid deployment, and the bag benefits from a patented design to ensure it is not destroyed or heavily damaged on contact with a colliding vehicle.
A radar and camera system is used to detect an imminent collision, although these technologies are still being refined.
The bag has a 200 litre capacity and measures between 15 to 20 centimetres deep, 70cm tall and 200cm long, and is designed to shield the front and rear doors to the bottom of the window frames.
“The firing strategy is the issue, as there needs to be a high level of confidence before we’re able to fire a non-reversible device prior to impact,” Kagerer told Auto Express.
The project is the result of three years of development, funded by the European Union, and TRW hopes to have the airbag installed on production vehicles by 2020.
Pictured above: Volvo's 2013 April Fool joke; a full-body airbag system.