ZF TRW has developed a new airbag designed to help vehicle manufacturers improve side impact protection.

The centre airbag is integrated into the inner side of the seat back and deploys to help protect the head, shoulder and torso areas of occupants in the front seat.

Occupants are protected in ‘far-side’ and ‘near-side’ crashes by deploying a bag cushion between the driver and front seat passenger.

In the event of a far-side impact, where an oncoming vehicle or object strikes the opposite side of the vehicle to the driver with sufficient force, the centre airbag helps keep the driver in place.

ZF TRW adds the device can minimise side displacement of the driver and reduce the risk of interaction of the driver with the front seat passenger or surrounding structural vehicle interior parts.

“The risk to far-side occupants during side impact crashes is significant,” said ZF TRW Inflatable Restraints Systems global engineering director, Dirk Schultz.

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“Accident research shows that in the US, nearly 30% of side impact fatalities involve far side events and in Germany, nearly 30% of severely injured occupants in side crashes resulted from a far side collisions.”

The centre airbag module is equipped with a hybrid inflator and uses one-piece-woven bag or sewn cushion technology.

The modules can be designed to meet different OEM vehicle design choices including a tether mechanism which promotes a triangular shape upon deployment.

“We are experiencing rising interest in this new airbag technology and Euro NCAP is currently assessing new side impact test protocols for 2018 and beyond,” said Schultz.

“If implemented, we believe many new vehicles could require far-side airbag modules.”