The system that deploys from the side of a vehicle before a collision could be on a production vehicle in four years, auto supplier ZF says.

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Auto supplier ZF has developed an airbag that deploys outside the vehicle to reduce the impact of crashes. ZF, Detroit Free Press

If you ever wanted to protect your car with bubble-wrap, German supplier ZF has the feature you’ve been waiting for.

A new airbag that deploys from the side of a vehicle before a collision can reduce the severity of occupant injuries 40%, according to ZF, which is bidding to become a major force in safety engineering in addition to its longstanding expertise in steering and transmissions.

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The airbag, which looks like a pontoon strapped to the car’s side, is packed inside the sill plates, below the vehicle’s doors.

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The system uses cameras, radar and lidar to determine when a collision is unavoidable, igniting the air bag milliseconds before the oncoming vehicle strikes. The sensors will also communicate with safety systems inside the vehicle, for instance adjusting the seat belts for side impact.

The air bag is five to eight times the size of a driver airbag, depending on the side of the vehicle. When inflated, it cushions the passenger compartment.

Contact Mark Phelan at 313-222-6731 or Follow him on Twitter @mark_phelan. Read more on autos and sign up for our autos newsletter.

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