Transverse Center Airbag Transverse Center Airbag

Central Airbag for Small and Compact Vehicles

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Airbags between the front seats often use the center console for support. ZF’s new transverse center airbag is especially made for cars without center console.
Achim Neuwirth,
Achim Neuwirth has been writing for ZF since 2011. He has specialized in writing texts about all kinds of car-related topics: from vehicles to the technology behind them, to driving and traffic.
Today’s passenger vehicles feature high-level safety measures, such as airbags, that are deployable in the event of an accident. Often, airbags between the front seats use the center console for support. ZF’s new transverse center airbag is designed for cars without a center console. Some volume production cars, such as the Škoda Octavia, already feature this center airbag (CeAB), which is designed to provide enhanced protection for occupants in the event of a far-side crash. The center airbag may also mitigate the severity of a collision (head interaction) between the two occupants. However, the type of center console does influence its effectiveness significantly. ZF’s transverse (center) airbag for small and compact cars helps reduce the occupant momentum by providing the body with additional support even without a pronounced center console.

Airbag Adds Stability Across the Seat

How is a 'transverse' setup different from a traditional CeAB setup? The conventional CeAB cushion uses the center console as a support element when it inflates. It is designed to deploy two chambers of the airbag to provide maximum 'lateral retention' up to head height.

However, many small and compact cars do not have a pronounced center console. Unlike larger vehicle classes, the narrow space between the driver and passenger seats in small and compact cars many times can only accommodate flat storage compartments or cupholders, if at all, making it more difficult to stabilize a central bag. ZF engineers developed an innovative, eponymous seat anchorage for their new transverse (center) airbag. The airbag fabric has a third anchorage point that extends right into the upper 'head chamber'.

On the seat, the airbag is also secured to the top of the backrest frame at two points. This optimized integration of the airbag into the seat marks a major difference from today's concepts on the market, providing numerous advantages and possibilities.

ZF’s new transverse (center) airbag features a dual anchorage on the top of the seat structure, with the airbag secured directly through the fabric. This eliminates the need for support from the center console and the adjacent passenger seat to apply the required support force in the event of a far-side crash.

The lateral stiffness that this protective cushion provides from the seat during testing is at least on a par with the previous center airbag systems. Seat integration tests, together with a seat manufacturer confirm this. "We see the potential for even better restraint in the head area," says Stojan Bogdanovic, Core Engineer for Side & Center Airbag at ZF. "Vehicle manufacturers can also use the inner headrest sleeve for support. This is ideal because it is simple and strong," says Dominique Acker, Manager, Core Engineering Side & Center Airbag at ZF.
The innovative seat anchorage of the transverse (center) airbag (right) also enhances the occupant protection potential in small and compact vehicles – an ideal solution for electric urban runabouts.

Center Airbag Scores on All Fronts

The new protective cushion raises the standard – even without a central support element in the interior – and delivers top crash-test ratings. Vehicle manufacturers can now provide the highest level of safety, despite the lack of a center console. "Motivation for this new bag design also is to be more relevant to practical applications. The 'pole test', which simulates a lateral impact against rigid objects such as a tree, could be conducted at other angles from 2025 onwards. You can also investigate the effect of the airbag at different seat height settings," says Acker. So can we expect to see the transverse airbag being premiered in a volume production vehicle soon? "ZF’s transverse (center) airbag is ready. Once automobile manufacturers express an interest, volume production development can start," states Bogdanovic.