There are now tens of millions of airbag-equipped vehicles on the highways, In vehicle collision accidents, thousands of lives have been saved, and tens of thousands of potentially severe injuries have been reduced. Yet, there are also injuries caused by various airbag systems, especially in lowspeed to moderate-speed accidents in which no other significant injuries would likely have been caused.
Short-stature drivers and children passengersin the right-front seat,h ave been documented as the most vulnerable to airbag-caused severe to fatal injuries. There have therefore been incentives for motor vehicle manufacturers, airbag system manufacturers, and government agencies to move ahead in the development and implementation of safer airbag technology. This report examines the concepts, developments, and directions for airbag safety innovations.
A typical present-day airbag system is comprised of the basic elements of (a) crash sensors to detect the sufficient deceleration that indicates a frontal collision is likely beginning, (b) a gas generator that instantaneously produces a sufficently high volume of gas, (c) a stored airbag in the center of the steering wheel and in the instrument panel that will become fully inflated in about 30-to-40 milliseconds, and (d) a diagnostic module that can monitor and validate the readiness of all the sysytem’s component.
The criteria for airbags is no longer to simply offer automatic protection for the driver and front seat occupants in frontal crashes. More stringent requirements reflect the public’s understandable concern after reports of airbag-caused fatal injuries to shorter drivers and children passengers. The airbag also must not create a risk nor cause injury to the shorter driver or others who may be too close to the stored airbag, such as with an unbelted or belted person moving forward during pre-crash braking. Nor should the airbag cause injury to small children passengers,w ho may be in a child safety seat or somewhat out of position (e.g., unbelted and leaning closer to the stowed airbag).
This may require airbag systems that have sensors or other means to detect the potentially adverse situation, and then restrict the particular airbag from deploying. This will also require automakers to verify compliance to test procedures that no longer focus on the 50th-percentile adult male test dummy, but will also include short-stature female drivers and child test dummies as well. Larger, tall test dummies should also be included in a more comprehensive test matrix of various individual sizes, weights, and seating positions.
While initial airbag systems have concerned occupant protection in frontal crashes, a second wave of airbag systems concerns occupant protection in side impact crashes and vehicle rollover accidents. Various designs offer protection for the torso, or for both the torso and also higher at the occupant’s head level.
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