The new TV-equipped Audi A8 has active suspension, which in the past has been used for a tunable ride and raising for better ground clearance. But Audi now thinks active suspension can be used for passive safety, and its new system can jack up a side of the car to better protect its occupants in the moments before a crash.
The idea is that the car can better absorb the impact while raised up. The collision of somebody else t-boning you would strike first at the A8's floor and side sills, rather than bashing right into the door.
Audi explained how this is all supposed to work when it first said the tech was coming back in June:
The system uses the sensors networked in the central driver assistance controller (zFAS) to detect risks of a collision around the car. In the event of an imminent side impact at more than 25 km/h (15.5 mph) the suspension actuators raise the body on the exposed side by up to 80 millimeters (3.1 in) within half a second. As a result, the collision is directed to the even stronger areas of the luxury sedan, such as side sills and floor structure. Hence the load on the occupants is reduced by up to 50 percent compared with a side impact where the body is not raised.
There’s no great point to wonder how much this system weighs, or what kind of added complexity it holds, or what the value of a big, hulking, heavy, passive safety-oriented vehicle has over a light, small, active safety-oriented one, as we should all give up commuting anyway and take the train and the bus everywhere until driverless cars free us from driving at all. But while we’re stuck in this semi-autonomous driving present, it’s neat that cars are slowly starting to copy more and more the physical motions of living things as they also start thinking for themselves, too.