New Smarter Airbags Will Deploy During Secondary Crash Impacts To Keep You Safer

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Three of every ten crashes involves a second impact. New airbags will help keep you safer in these common crashes. 

Airbags save lives, but only if they can deploy at exactly the correct time during a crash event. In many types of accidents, such as large animal strikes on the highway, the secondary crashes that occur are the most deadly. IIHS says that 36% of highway animal strikes involve a vehicle that then runs off the road and hits another object or overturns. If airbags deploy only during the first contact, they may not be available for the more severe secondary hits.

According to the National Automotive Sampling System Crashworthiness Data System (NASS-CDS), a division of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about 30 percent of 56,000 vehicle accidents studied involved multi-collisions. Studies show that leading type of multi-collision accidents involved cars crossing the center line (30.8 percent), followed by collisions at highway tollgates (13.5 percent), highway median strip collisions (8.0 percent), and sideswiping and collision with trees and electric poles (4.0 percent). A 2010 study by the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine noted that “…real-world crash analysis has revealed that these secondary impacts are not uncommon and, when they occur, result in a greater risk of fatal and severe occupant injuries.”

Automakers like Hyundai recognize this reality and are now moving to make airbags that can protect passengers in both primary and subsequent impacts during a crash. One of the biggest challenges to engineers designing these new systems is passenger location. Ahead of primary impacts, passengers are usually where they are expected to be. Sitting upright in their seats. However, after an impact, passengers can be thrown into an unexpected position. So these new airbag systems will start with position sensors to instantly detect where passengers are after the first impact.

Hyundai has found that multi-collision airbag systems need to be designed to deploy even faster when initial safety systems may not be effective. The company says that by recalibrating the collision intensity required for deployment, the airbag system responds more promptly during the secondary impact, thereby improving the safety of multi-collision vehicle occupants.

“By improving airbag performance in multi-collision scenarios, we expect to significantly improve the safety of our drivers and passengers,” said Taesoo Chi, head of Chassis Technology Center at Hyundai Motor Group. “We will continue our research on more diverse crash situations as part of our commitment to producing even safer vehicles that protect occupants and prevent injuries.”

Hyundai and Kia plan to develop the new airbag systems and commercialize them via future passenger car models.

Image Note: Mini crash image courtesy of the Campton-Thornton NH Fire & Rescue

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John Goreham

John Goreham

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