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William K.
User Rank
Airbag light irks
William K.   8/28/2011 7:52:01 PM
The best solution would be for airbags to be optional equipment, not a very expensive stack of ordinance forced on everybody. BUT safety DOES NOT SELL! This has been demonstarted repeatedly over the years. The only way to make safety profitable is to bribe congress into forcing everybody to buy it. This is not a new discovery, it was demonstrated in the auto industry many years ago with anti-lock brakes. When they were an option, they were an expensive money-loser, but once they became nandatory, they are a profit source.

With the front passenger airbag there was a very real probability of the back firing in a collision with nobody in the seat, thus adding about $2000 to the repair costs of a collision. Even worse, having a frail old person or  five-year old in the passenger seat did repeatedly result in the passengers death by this inescapable option. Thus came the seat switch. In my car the passenger airbad disabled warning comes on with books or a briefcase on the seat, which is fine, since they certainly don't need any protection to survive. 

The fact that the specification is not clear about exactly when it must disable and enable shows that the rule was not created by engineers, or anybody else who knew what they were doing. Perhaps they were monkeys?


David McCollum
User Rank
Passenger airbag issues
David McCollum   8/26/2011 5:17:11 PM
I have a similar airbag situation in my two Suzukis. If I go somewhere alone, the light says PASSENGER AIRBAG OFF. For example, if my girlfriend gets into the car and I leave without turning the ignition off and restarting the car, the light remains on. Normally, I stop, get out, escort her to the car, and restart, so this issue may have been present all along and I never noticed it until now. (She's not a small girl, so I don't think it's a weight / sensitivity issue.) Since both of my Forenzas, an '05 and an '04 act exactly the same way, I suspect it is inherent in the design of the system.

Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Re: The lessons...
Rob Spiegel   8/26/2011 9:13:12 AM
I agree with OlderEngineer. I kept all three of my kids in the backseat until they were nearly adults. A simply look at statistics will scare you into this behavior. Thus, sensors in the passenger seat were never an issue. I can't see the idea of putting a kid in the most dangerous seat and then figuring out how to make it just a tad safer.

User Rank
Re: seat airbag modules
LloydP   8/25/2011 3:57:16 PM
Measuring the weight/presence/size of an occupant directly is not a simple matter, as a passenger's feet may rest on the floor pan, making the passenger seem lighter. Cinching a seat belt on a child seat may add to the load on the cushon, making the occupant appear heavier.

Most of the occupant sensing systems I am aware of (I was involved in the development of one of these systems before I retired) use some sort of mat embedded in the foam of the seat. Most of the error in the system is involved in the placement of the sensing technology (membrane switches, capaitance elements, etc) to optimize the estimate of the passenger weight. The closer the sensing mat is to the top surface of the seat, the better weight estimate can be made. However, this position makes the sensing mat much more vulnerable to damage.

Well designed software can only estimate occupant size based on the "goodness" of the sensor data it sees. If the sensing mat is the culprit in the initial complaint, no amount of software upgrades will ever cure the problem.

It is easy to pass the test defined in the FMVSS standard. However, designing a system that is effective in the real world is much more complicated. "Due dilligence" required that we use a veritible Kama Sutra of occupant positions to extend the sensor capability beyond the test requirements to encompass real world usage.

User Rank
seat airbag modules
John   8/25/2011 3:02:34 PM
Sounds like the mercury switch in the seat isn't oriented correctly.  I would imagine they have to be sent off to a repair facility because of the liability issues.  The airbag module under or in the seat has it's own power source and can be triggered even when it's disconnected from the rest of the car if not handled correctly.

The triangle exclamation mark symbol on the dash is correct, something on your car is going to be permently damaged.  probably resulting in failure if not looked at.  If it were real serious, would have died right there. 

Personally, I wouldn't buy a car with navigation builtin.  Hand held units do just as well and far cheaper.  But gadgets sell cars and can part people with even more money.

User Rank
The lessons...
OlderEngineer   8/25/2011 2:35:07 PM
Isn't the lesson in all this to buckle the kids in the back seat (using a car seat when needed) and always where your seat belt and shoulder harness?

Cars are no longer just a means of transportation but mobile communications and entertainment capsules.  The public brought this on themselves by demanding more and more features to take their mind off the task of driving and then expecting the government to protect them from the inevitable injuries which occur by not paying attention. 

When I see car ads that only speak up how "connected" I can be, I automatically remove them from my want list.  If the manufacturer doesn't first try to convince me that it's a better car I don't want it!

User Rank
Re: A guv'ment problem?
Ratsky   8/25/2011 1:29:36 PM
I don't know what planet you live on!  ALL manufacturers have had issues similar to this; just because you never got a recall notice doesn't mean there isn't a problem.  Try Googling "airbag + auto +recall" to open your eyes.  Just in the past month, Ford recalled 1.5 MILLION F150s for an airbag problem (this one was possible unintended triggering, even more dangerous); GM recalled 50K Cadillac SRX models for another.  Also Toyota, etc. There are a couple of web services (free) that will periodically e-mail you notices of recalls, service bulletins, and common complaints for specific models and years.  I used one of these until very recently for both the 2006 Sonata and my 2003 Camry (whose biggest problem I had was a bad steering column that Toyota refused to repair/replace under warranty).  I finally unsubscribed because there were so many of the same issues every month reported by new victims it was very discouraging.

Jack Rupert, PE
User Rank
Re: Minor Edit error!
Jack Rupert, PE   8/25/2011 12:51:23 PM
Its one thing if they decided that the firmware won't be changed (yeah, right) and they wanted to leave that feature out.  However, what sort of design is it that the dealer can't even change the controller out...and on a recall claim, no less?

User Rank
A guv'ment problem?
rosek   8/25/2011 11:43:07 AM
If this were just a guv'ment problem (really a lawyer problem), then why haven't we heard about a rash of these problems with other auto manufacturer's products?  My Freestyle has a similar feature and it seems to be working perfectly.

User Rank
Re: Irksome indicator lights
Ratsky   8/25/2011 11:30:56 AM
As usual, it's worse than that: the regulations include a specific intent that weight alone is NOT sufficient, since apparently they believe height is also an issue.  That's the reason there is even a mention of fore/aft seat position; the theory is that if the seat is too close to the airbag location, it can do more damage to the passenger than the crash would!  I believe that latest technologies for airbags include variable inflation force to give options other that activate/deactivate.  You're absolutely right about the automakers responding rationally to an irrational situation.

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