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Volvo Debuts World’s First Pedestrian Airbag

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Volvo V49 Pedestrian Airbag TechnologyVolvo has created the first-ever pedestrian airbag. Introduced on Tuesday at the 82nd annual Geneva Motor Show, the airbag is built in to Volvo’s V40 five-door hatchback and is designed to protect pedestrians who are hit by drivers.

In 2009, 4,092 pedestrians were killed in car accidents in the U.S. — 47 of them in Colorado — according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

Steve Cropley reports in that the new pedestrian airbag “pops the car’s bonnet [hood] on impact and provides a large cushion at the base of the screen [windshield] onto which a pedestrian can fall, yet which is U-shaped to allow the driver visibility to keep steering.”

Andrew Liszewski explains it another way for Gizmodo, in his article “Even the Pedestrian You Accidentally Hit Now Gets Their Own Airbag”:

Sensors in the bumper register the impact at which point the hood is released and automatically raised by an inflating airbag that extends far enough to provide a cushion as the person rolls up onto the vehicle.

The severity of the accident is dependent on the vehicle’s speed and how the person was hit. But if I was a pedestrian who accidentally stepped out in front of a moving vehicle, I sincerely hope there was a Volvo logo on its grill.

As Liszewski notes, in addition to the new airbag to protect pedestrians, Volvo’s V40 has a new Pedestrian Detection system that uses a video camera and grill-mounted radar to detect and recognize a person in the car’s path. It can tell if the pedestrian is moving and whether a collision is likely based on the car’s speed. If there is a risk that the car will hit the walking person, an alarm will sound to alert the driver. And if there is not adequate time for the driver to hit the brakes, the car will brake on its own.

The new V40 will go into production in May, in Volvo’s plant in Ghent, Belgium, according to Rebecca Martin writing for The Local (Sweden’s news publication in English). Cropley writes that the car was designed while Ford still owned Volvo. Volvo said it plans to build 90,000 V40s a year, Ron Hammerton reports in, and that 85% of the cars will be for the European market.

You can see what the airbag looks like in action in this video:

Image: Screen capture from a YouTube video by HooftmanVolvo, used under Fair Use: Reporting.


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