There's no denying that airbags have saved lives for several decades now. In essence, it softens the blow on the occupants by serving as a cushion on impact. But what if there was a way to lessen even more forces on the outside of the vehicle.

German parts supplier ZF Friedrichshafen AG reckons there is, indeed, a way. Their solution is to install an airbag on the door sills of the vehicle. It is in its concept stages for now but ZF has been putting the outer side airbags through its paces. So how will it work?

According to ZF, a barrage of radar and sensors will be mounted on the flanks of the vehicle. That way, the airbags will not deploy unnecessarily when, say, a motorcycle lane-splits or when a vehicle runs too close to the side. The sensors will determine the speed, size, and distance of an oncoming object. When an impact is imminent, that is the only time the airbags will deploy.

Will exterior airbags be a thing of the future? image

With the exterior airbags in place, ZF reckons that injuries from side impacts can be significantly reduced. They say that injuries can be lessened by 20 to 30 percent, while reducing cabin intrusion by 30 percent. That said, the idea of airbags outside the vehicle isn't an entirely new concept. Volvo introduced hood airbags back in 2012, which was installed in the V40 hatchback. Subaru also has pedestrian airbags installed in select markets, one of which includes the Impreza. Even Land Rover has followed suit by installing it in the Discovery Sport as well.

Of course, we won't be seeing this system installed in cars as soon as possible. ZF said there are several automakers interested to see its development, although none have placed contracts just yet. Should this idea catch on, we might just start seeing this system in cars 10 to 20 years from now.