The idea of an external, all-enveloping car airbag is so far-fetched to Volvo that earlier this year it made an April Fool’s joke of it, but far from being amused, a safety research company has released pictures showing it is actively developing the idea.
TWR Automotive, which supplies safety technology to the motor industry, has designed external airbags that deploy from the car’s sills to protect occupants in side impacts, which account for around 40% of collisions. The airbag moves upwards from the sill during deployment to cover the lower halves of the front and rear doors. Sophisticated radar and camera systems are being developed that can trigger inflation at precisely the right moment.
TWR hopes to have the bags fitted on premium German saloons by the end of the decade.
Drivers might have to wait slightly longer for Volvo's April Fool’s airbag, however. According to the car maker, the External Vehicle Protection (EnVeloP) system “unfolds within the blink of an eye around the car ensuring that damage and personal injury is minimized.”
Maybe now it’s thinking the joke wasn’t so funny after all, although it can at least claim to have developed the world's first external airbag, fitted to the V40. The pedestrian airbag deploys in a U shape from the area immediately ahead of the windscreen, to protect the casualty from hard areas such as the car's windscreen pillars.