Airbag Technology Is About To Change – This Is What That Means

Airbags have been around for decades now. In their short time in the automotive world, they have proven very successful in preventing the severity of injuries or even death. In fact, they have been so successful in car accidents that additional airbags have been introduced. What was once solely a driver’s side airbag has now proliferated into passenger, side-curtain, and even glove box airbags. So, why would anyone want to change them?

There’s room for improvement

A police officer can be seen through the window of a car that has had two front airbags depoloyed.
Two airbags deployed in the front of the cabin of a car | Getty images

As good as the pillows of safety are at doing their job, there is always room for improvement. Such is the case with a patent approval that Waymo recently received. According to our friends at Autoevolution, the approval is for an airbag that creates an enclosure. In the event of an accident, the device would deploy, possibly from below the seat, and create a cocoon-like enclosure for the seat’s occupant. The idea is to protect the rider from all directions. 

Seatbelt airbags are coming

The idea of updating or improving airbags not new. Sandy Munro, from Munro and Associates, is looking at the effectiveness of new seat-belt deployed airbags. If the product works as expected, it could initially be used in autocycles before being rolled out into other vehicles. In an interview with Malcolm Bricklin, he discusses, and shows, how the seat-belt deployed air sacks would work. The video clip of the interview is below. The discussion begins at the 4:05 timestamp. 

Further development of frontal airbags continues

In the meantime, further development of the frontal airbags continues. For example, Acura just is launching a new type geared for the passenger. It is a three-chambered unit that deploys to cradle the head of the passenger seat occupant. The new airbag will be available in the new 2021 Acura TLX. This head-cradle design is intended to reduce brain injury in major accidents. An example of how that deploys is in the video below.

RELATED: Is a Car Totaled if the Airbags Deploy?

The material that airbags are made of is also being looked at. According to our friends at Automobile Industry

“manufacturers are focusing on developing nylon-based fabrics coated with organic silicon instead of neoprene, as these coated fabrics have longer service life, stable performance, high wear resistance, and are lightweight.”

Smart airbags are under consideration

Most airbags deploy once a sensor indicates an impact has happened. But, now there is a smart-airbag that the German company ZF is shopping around. It is predictive in nature. So, it does not wait for an impact. Instead, when sensors indicate an impact is about to happen, the airbag will deploy external to the vehicle. This will soften the blow to the vehicle and the occupants. It is called, Pro-Active Side Impact Protection and claims to reduce the severity of injuries in an accident by as much as 40 percent. You can see an example of this in action by clicking here.

What we are witnessing is the evolution of the airbag. Changes are happening. Past accident studies are being analyzed to develop new technology, use different materials, and add more mounting locations. All of this is being explored and rolled out to make occupants as safe as possible. In short, a whole lot of research, planning, and execution is being done for something that no one wants to see, the deployment of an airbag right before our own eyes. But suppose we do witness our own deployment. In that case, we will at least be less likely to suffer from the severity of injuries than just a few short years ago.