Airbags have been required in all new passenger vehicles since 1999, with data suggesting the system reduces driver fatalities in frontal impacts by 29% and front-seat passenger fatalities (aged 13 and over) by 32%.
Honda’s Ohio-based R&D team hopes that its new airbag design will be able to further improve vehicle safety when it starts to make its way into new vehicles in 2020.
The Japanese automaker’s next-generation airbag is supposed to reduce injuries in impacts that can cause the vehicle occupant’s head to rotate severely, and also prevent the head from sliding off the airbag, an action that itself can increase the chances of serious injury.
“Unlike conventional airbag systems that rely on a single inflatable compartment, the new system utilizes four major components: three inflated compartments — a center chamber and two outward-projecting side chambers that create a wide base across the dash — along with a ‘sail panel’ that stretches between the two side chambers at their outermost edge,” Honda explained in a release, adding that it functions “something like a baseball catcher’s mitt.”
In an impact, the sail panel functions to catch and decelerate the occupant’s head while the side chambers cradle and protect the head, reducing the chances of injury.
Honda said its latest airbag technology is the result of its own studies of real-world vehicle accidents, coupled with research and testing at its advanced safety research center in Raymond, Ohio, a facility that includes equipment for advanced crash simulations, pedestrian safety, collision testing, and advanced restraint system development and tuning.
“This new airbag technology represents Honda’s continuing effort to advance safety performance in a wider variety of crash scenarios, and reflects the innovative thinking that our engineers are bringing to the challenge of reducing traffic injuries and fatalities,” said Jim Keller, president of Honda R&D Americas.
He added: ”Guided by Honda’s ‘Safety for Everyone’ commitment, our engineers recognize that their work on this type of breakthrough safety technology will have far-reaching effects on peoples’ lives for many years to come.”
Airbags have been around for years and while the technology hasn’t always enjoyed the best publicity, the system continues to play a vital role in saving lives and preventing serious injuries in vehicle collisions.
As with Honda’s recent efforts, the design is also being enhanced and refined, with German components manufacturer ZF also recently revealing a new type of airbag, this one deploying externally to protect the side of a vehicle — a vulnerable area because of its smaller crumple zone.