Flexible Venting Airbag

In what it is calling an industry first, General Motors (GM) has debuted a “smart” airbag in its 2013 Chevy Cruze that reduces the risk of injury to the driver, as Anita Lienert reports for Edmunds InsideLine. GM said on Tuesday that the airbag, which is standard equipment on the 2013 Chevy Cruze, cuts the risk of “inflation-induced injury by allowing the driver’s forward momentum to effectively push the air out and away,” Lienert writes.

John Goreham writes for Torque News that many people may not realize how difficult it is to design a front airbag for a passenger vehicle, which has to be effective for people of varying sizes and heights, and for those wearing and not wearing seatbelts, should the vehicle collide with another at whatever speed.

Goreham writes:

Currently, manufacturers achieve this using a complex array of sensors and a dual stage airbag that can inflate at differing strengths depending upon the speed of the vehicle and other factors. Working with its supplier, GM has now developed a simpler, single stage, venting airbag that achieves the goals, but at a lower cost. […]

GM is different from many automotive manufacturers in that it introduces new safety systems not at the top of its model line, as do so many car makers, but throughout the line of its cars and trucks.

Lienert writes that airbag-related fatalities are relatively rare, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. She points out that in a statement on its website, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety writes:

The energy required to quickly inflate airbags can cause injury. This used to be a serious concern with frontal airbags, but, thanks to new government requirements, airbag injuries are becoming a thing of the past. Fortunately, even with older airbags, most of the injuries that occur are minor scrapes and abrasions, and serious injuries and death are relatively rare.

More than 290 deaths were caused between 1990-2008 by frontal airbag inflation in low-speed accidents, according to NHTSA estimates, Lienert writes. Nearly 90% of those deaths occurred in vehicles manufactured before 1998, and more than 80% of those killed were not wearing seat belts or were improperly restrained, she writes. A person in a vehicle who is not wearing a seat belt is likely to move forward when there is hard braking or swerving before a frontal crash, and as a result, that person can end up on top of, or very close to,  the airbags as they start to inflate.

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