Automakers, at one time, balked at the idea of an airbag mandate, claiming they were too expensive and would do little to improve safety. Today, airbags come standard, and are even seen in seatbelts, center consoles, and backseats.
The entry-level Chevy Cruze, for example, now offers 10 standard airbags, including front, side, knee and head curtain, as well as outboard, rear-seat, side-impact bags. The automaker's 2012 Sonic also has 10 airbags, including dual-stage bags for the driver and front passenger, roof-rail-mounted head curtain bags, and seat-mounted side impact bags. It also includes knee bags for the driver and front passenger.
Click on the photo below to see a gallery of how other automakers are employing airbags in their vehicles:
Ford's inflatable seatbelts are designed to spread crash forces over five times more area of the body than conventional seatbelts. Used for rear-seat occupants, the inflatable belts help reduce pressure on the chest, and help control head and neck motion. (Source: Ford Motor Co.)
I worked on airbag system crash sensors in the late 80's and early 90's. These were MEMS sensors and the engineering gulf between the automotive guys and the IC/sensor guys was amazing!
I am very happy to see the technology adopted so widely (even if by law) these days and knowing my 21 year old, who used to sleep in his stroller on Sunday while I was at work trying to make sense of sensor failures will always drive a safer car as a result!
I wonder what kind of cost/benefit analysis takes place during the design process about airbags versus extra metal. Presumably, a bigger car with a crumple zone in conjunction with air bags is more effective than either alone. The salient question is, in a small car with not much of a protective shell, how much safety (crash survivability) is added via chest, shoulder, waist etc. airbags. I don't know but would be curious.
I understand that the airbags are inflated via a gas generator rather than compressed air. Can anyone confirim this? It also seems that the sensors have been vastly improved compared to earlier models.
I also recall from some years back that the cost of replacing the deployed airbags was quite high. This resulted in some cars being returned to service without air bags after an incident that triiggered the deployment but did not result in the complete loss of the vehicle.
It might be of interest to know how much it costs to replace the deployed airbags with new ones after an event.
It certainly seems that we ahve made enormous improvements in passenger safety.
Chuck, Great to see the images and actual visuals of how different airbags are designed to deploy. I am wondering how much the automakers are moving to more crash simulations versus actual crash testing. I'm sure they are still doing the latter but I thought they were moving in that direction. Thanks.
Very cool, Chuck. I've been lucky enough to never had seen an airbag actually deployed so it's really interesting to see all the various shapes and sizes and where they are hidden in the vehicle. The pinkish, odd shape airbag for preventing the driver and passenger from knocking heads is particularly interesting and odd-shaped. Any thoughts/intel on why it looks so freeform as opposed to most of the others which are more like big pillows?
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