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NINETY EIGHT REGENCY

Mercedes playing with external airbags

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Mercedes playing with external airbags

BY MARK PHELAN

FREE PRESS AUTO CRITIC

You knew it would come to this. To make cars safer, Mercedes-Benz is experimenting with air bags on the outside.

Not to turn the car into a massive cushion and protect pedestrians, as you might guess, but to be deployed beneath the car as a sort of anchor to slow the car when a collision is inevitable.

The bag inflates below the car, lifting the vehicle slightly and pushing a rubber and steel plate against the road. The result is up to 2G deceleration, enough to greatly reduce the force of impact. The bag also lifts the front end as much as 3 inches. This offsets the nose's tendency to dip under heavy braking and makes it more likely the car's bumper will strike the other car's bumper.

It's just one of many proposed safety features in Mercedes' new ESF 2009 engineering car. Others include:

• Inflatable seat cushions to push passengers inboard, where they will be safer in a crash.

• Smart headlights that detect oncoming traffic and redirect the high beams so they don't blind other drivers but continue to shine maximum light on the road.

• Reflective tire sidewalls to make the car visible to cross traffic at night.

link:

http://www.freep.com/article/20100325/COL14/3250444/1210/business01/Mercedes-playing-with-external-airbags

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I can't imagine road departments are going to be very happy about this... 2Gs worth of force is likely to result in increased road damage... unless they just continue to pass the price onto the customers... which isn't going to sit well with the drivers.

Friends of mine where pretty shocked when they where involved in an accident and they got billed for the gouges they left in the road.

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