Accurately Predicting Collisions Before They Occur

A Project between ZF and PreAct Technologies


Despite advances in traffic safety technology, road accidents cause severe human and economic losses every year. According to Together for Safer Roads , the annual cost of car accidents worldwide is around $518 billion, which is equivalent to roughly 1–2% of each country’s GDP. The primary goal on the road to Vision Zero is to avoid accidents. At the same time, every effort must be made to mitigate the consequences of crashes that cannot be avoided. ZF and PreAct are collaborating on crash mitigation and will jointly develop technologies for this purpose.

Approximately 1.35 million lives are cut short and another 50 million people are injured each year because of traffic accidents. Agencies such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the U.S. point out that advanced safety measures, such as occupant repositioning and soft airbag launches, enacted prior to an imminent crash can reduce the majority of injuries, save lives, and reduce the cost to society by billions of dollars. In line with this principle, ZF’s Safe Mobility Systems department builds its proactive side impact protection concept, relying on pre-crash rather than reactionary post-crash measures. While e.g.airbags usually only deploy after a collision has been detected, ZF’s new external airbag unfolds as soon as a crash is predicted, reducing injury severity by up to 40%.

As an active shaper of safety for the next generation of mobility and already experienced with pre-crash technology, ZF’s advanced system development team sought other affordable sensor technologies that offer high update rates, low latency and high accuracy.

They found a promising partner in Portland-based PreAct Technologies. Through a reliable and high-speed system using near-field optics computing, PreAct’s safety technology can determine when and where a car collision is going to occur. With this forewarning, it rapidly engages countermeasures to protect vehicle occupants. This includes allowing the vehicle to adjust its suspension and internal cab features such as adjusting the seating position to better prepare for impact. External airbags can also be released to cushion the blow and protect vehicle occupants from lethal side impacts. The solution with low latency (<10 ms) and high update rate (>200 Hz) was thus a fitting match to ZF’s requirements.

The Project

Shortly after their first meeting in 2020, ZF and PreAct agreed to collaborate on a pre-crash system design and testing. ZF contributed its expertise in sensor industrialization and predictive safety, airbag and seatbelt technology, OEM-focused functional requirements for pre-crash functions and design reviews, and cross-linking to other ZF applications for comfort and safety (e.g. Automated Door Opener, Automated Valet Parking, etc.). PreAct brought its expertise in sensor design, edge processing and
algorithm development.

Together, the teams conducted and assessed numerous crash tests and near-misses to accurately predict the reliability of the impending collision detection capabilities of PreAct’s TrueSense product.

Future Outlook

PreAct and ZF are leveraging their technologies to first accurately predict the collision of a vehicle with another vehicle or object and then launch a suite of countermeasures, such as advanced airbags, to protect occupants in ways heretofore considered impossible. Test results suggest that PreAct’s sensor technology provides a cost effective pre-crash solution in both simulation and real-world testing. Even in challenging Head-On collision tests at 50 mph with 25 % vehicle overlap, a robust collision probability estimation - which can enable an activation/triggering of countermeasures- was given at -125 ms before the crash. Additional corner cases are currently being studied together.

Following the successful completion of the PoC phase, a real-world prototype vehicle is currently under development and scheduled for release in 2022.


We would like to express our sincere thanks to Georges Halsdorf (Safe Mobility Systems, ZF) and Paul Drysch (PreAct Technologies).


STARTUP AUTOBAHN powered by Plug and Play is an innovation platform moderating an in-depth and curated collaboration between core partners from industry and young tech companies. The program is stage agnostic and designed to accelerate startups by connecting them to the right business units of our Corporate Partners in order to lay the groundwork of a successful cooperation and eventually outstanding pilot projects, implementations or investments.

Plug and Play Tech Center, Mercedes-Benz AG, ARENA2036, University of Stuttgart, ZF, DXC Technology, Porsche, BASF, Webasto, Motherson, DPDHL, Bosch, Schaeffler, STMicroelectronics, Murata, AGC, Hyundai, Linde, BP, Wieland, Faurecia, Eberspächer, ADAC, Sekisui, Plastic Omnium, Zenzic, Maxion, Novelis, ITT, Grupo Antolin, Huf Group, CEAT

Contact for this project

Alina Biermann
Ventures Associate,
STARTUP AUTOBAHN powered by Plug and Play

Dr. Joscha Märkle-Huß
Head of Global Scouting,
ZF Group

Gandert Van Raemdonck
Head of Innovation Lab Commercial Vehicle Systems (incl. scouting),
ZF Group



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