Long considered a highly effective lifesaving device, the airbag has received some bad press lately due to defective inflator parts in bags made by Japanese manufacturer Takata. These models, manufactured at the company’s Mexico plant, were shooting shrapnel into passengers when activated.
While the defective airbags were initially found only in Toyotas, the list has expanded to several automakers and there has been a huge recall. Also, a New York Times article reported that there have been at least 139 injuries related to these defective airbags and tragically two deaths.
Safety devices like airbags are just supposed to work, and work right, the first time because the first time is hopefully the only time you’ll ever need them (if you need them at all). They’re one of the few parts of the car that one shouldn’t need an automotive service technician to repair! Consumers depend on manufacturers to thoroughly test airbags before a car ever makes it to the dealership lot.
One defect is one too many. Fortunately, some companies are taking steps to reboot the airbag’s image and protect more people on the road through innovation.
Passenger Knee Protection
Ford was one of the companies affected by the Takata recall and they’re taking steps not only to avoid being in the same situation again, but also to improve front seat passenger safety – starting with the knees. Graduates of mechanic colleges should know that the 2015 Ford Mustang promises an inflatable plastic bladder in the door of the glove box that projects out and down to protect the knees in the event of a collision.
It’s part of an overall safety upgrade which includes twice as many peripheral crash sensors and airbags as the previous model. Ford is also promising additional pretensioning seatbelt technology. And the additional safety devices aren’t supposed to take up any additional legroom, so passengers can feel free to stretch out while keeping safe.
Check out what Ford has to say about this new technology:
Airbags for Motorcyclists
Car drivers and passengers aren’t the only ones getting additional security from new airbag innovators. Motorcycle gear maker Alpinestars has found a way to protect their customers as well. They’re calling it Tech-Air – a technology that integrates airbag protection into the bikers’ clothing.
Alpinestars have created a mesh vest that cyclists wear underneath special jackets equipped with sensors that can detect a collision. When the rider zips up, the jacket is armed. According to the manufacturer, the system detects a crash in 30-60 milliseconds and the mesh fully inflates into an airbag in 25 milliseconds, protecting the rider’s neck and shoulders in particular.
If this sounds fascinating, it’s because it is, and not just to someone looking forward to an auto career. Whether you have a professional interest in driving technology or just a passing one, these new airbag safety tools are worth noticing. See them in action here:
Do these advances in airbag technology make you feel safer on the road? Let us know in the comments.