APART from some faulty Takatas, there’s no doubt airbags save lives.

They deploy in a millisecond and cushion vehicle occupants to some degree.

But German supplier ZF is working on what it says is additional and better protection: it is developing external crash safety airbags.

Yes, airbags that deploy outside the vehicle to take the brunt of the impact before the standard bags inside the car pop into action.

And it says the external bags could make their way to production in as little as two years.

The company showed off its product at the recent Airbag 2018 Symposium in Germany.

It’s about three times the size a standard interior airbag, and it uses multiple inflators. 

ZF developed the concept system for the side of the car, which would deploy in the event of a side-impact crash and tests showed it could reduce injury severity by up to 40 per cent.

It is, in effect, an extra crumple zone.

However, it’s a complex device that needs a computer, sensors, cameras and lidar (light detecting and ranging) to figure out that vehicle B has run a red light and whack into your car.

It needs to understand precisely when to deploy the external airbag(s).

Should it fail to deploy because software and hardware are too conservative, it becomes useless. 

However, ZF said it’s pretty confident its software and array of technology would know the difference.

The technology detects an impending impact and deploys the airbag in just 100 milliseconds, it says, and the airbag would be fully inflated before any impact with an  object or another car.

The company says it will also continue to adapt to self-driving car trends and rethink how to keep occupants safe inside.

One scenario ZF imagines is a future where occupants can roam about the cabin or recline back in their seats.

Such changes require new types of passive safety systems, which ZF plans to implement in the future.

It would need a change of law enforcement too.

And getting back to those external airbags, what would they cost to replace? And how much bigger would cars need to be to accommodate the bags and gas bottles?

Well know soon enough.