"You need to have enough available height to give the bag proper [crash] coverage," Eckel said. "And the side of the seat has to house the bag, so you need the seams on the seat to be just right."
By introducing the center air bag, GM is at the tip of a trend that includes most of the industry. Many vehicles incorporate air bags for drivers, passengers, and rear seat occupants. Side curtain air bags are common, as are knee bags and front seat "outboard bags," which provide lateral support for the lower half of the body. Ford Motor Co. even has inflatable seat belts for rear seat occupants.
GMC's Acadia will be the first vehicle to offer a center air bag. (Source: GM)
At last week's Chicago Auto Show -- the site of GMC's Acadia rollout -- other automakers hinted that center air bags would be coming soon. Toyota Motor Corp. demonstrated future safety technologies, including center air bags, at its booth. A Toyota spokeswoman at the show said it was "looking at the possibility" of adding center bags.
GM said the front center air bag will also be available on the 2013 editions of the Buick Enclave and Chevy Traverse.
Rader of the Insurance Institute said GM's move to center air bags is a logical one. "It comes down to Packaging 101. The same thing you do to keep a fragile object safe in a box in transit is the same thing you need to do to protect people in a crash."
For a close-up look at GM's Chevy Volt, go to the Drive for Innovation site and follow the cross-country journey of EE Life editorial director Brian Fuller. In the trip, sponsored by Avnet Express, Fuller is taking the fire-engine-red Volt to innovation hubs across America, interviewing engineers, entrepreneurs, innovators, and students as he blogs his way across the country.
I've begun to wonder whether adding airbags, once they were up to 8 per car, was as much a marketing thing as safety. That's cynical and not fair, I know, but the talk about airbags generally leaves out a discussion of the importance of the crumple zone in crash survivability. Anyway, the salient line in this story is the quote: "You need to have enough available height to give the bag proper [crash] coverage." So in this case the front center bag seems to be a really useful addition.
Happy to see any kind of development that increases driver and passenger safety. But I have to ask--a cushioney, center air bag seems like a no brainer. Why has it taken so long to be introduced into vehicles?
Tesla Motors’ $35,000, 200-mile electric car may not revolutionize the auto industry by itself, but it could serve as a starting point for a long, steady climb to a day when half of the world’s vehicles will be plug-ins.
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