The Future of Car Airbags

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Will we need airbags in a world of autonomous travel? Automobiles continue to be safer and safer with each new year model. This leads to fewer fatalities in accident situations. Through working with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), automakers learn about any areas in which new model cars, trucks and SUVs have any "weak spots" when they are involved in front and side collisions and can thus redesign the vehicles to offer more protection.
What will the future or airbags be for the auto industry? Some visionaries imagine a world in which autonomous vehicles will eliminate the need for airbags at all, since, by removing the human element of human mistakes in driving, actual collisions will be extremely rare. When looking at the future of car airbags, it is important to take a moment to look at the evolution of these safety devices.

Airbag History

Vehicle occupant restraint systems use a bag designed to inflate quickly, then deflate during a collision. While pioneered for aviation, the first automobile airbags were introduced in the 1970s and were in place in all vehicles by the 1990s. Known as supplemental restraint systems (SRS), sensors deploy airbags on impact. These began with front impact airbags for the driver and passenger, designed to fit inside the steering wheel and dashboard.
The first car to have driver and passenger airbags as standard equipment was the 1987 Porsche 944 Turbo. In 1988, Chrysler became the first U.S. automaker to fit driver and passenger airbags as standard equipment. In 1993 Jeep became the first SUV to offer driver-side airbags in its Grand Cherokee. In the same year Dodge Ram became the first pickup truck with standard driver-side airbags.
The United States Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 required all passenger cars and light trucks built after 1998 to have driver and front passenger airbags. The NHTSA estimated that the use of airbags saved over 4,600 lives by September 1999.
Airbags have evolved since then, side-impact torso and curtain airbags and even rear seat airbags have created an inflatable cushion around passengers in today's vehicles. Many cars currently have as many as nine airbags including knee airbags that deploy from the footwell and under the glovebox. In front end collisions, airbags reduce driver fatalities by 29 percent and passenger fatalities by 32 percent, according to the NHTSA.

Airbag Safety

Over the years, the quality of auto airbags has improved with new materials and technology to avoid accidents caused by the deployment of the bags. You see, in a collision, airbags deploy in milliseconds. Many people have likened the deployment of a front airbag to that of being hit in the face with a boxing glove. People have been injured, even killed by frontal bags. This led to reducing the inflation power to reduce injuries.
These new bags have been in use since 1997. Then dual-stage airbags became the next-gen system of choice. These systems actually detect the amount of force of the collision and reduce the force of deployment as needed. This system was designed to reduce the risk of injury to children and smaller adults. By 2003, the NHTSA mandated that all manufacturers use advanced frontal airbags. These systems have vented bags that use the driver's momentum to push the gas from the inflated bag, resulting in a softer impact.
Side airbags have been the cause of very few injuries because they only inflate a few inches toward the occupant. Front Center airbags were introduced by General Motors in 2013 which deploy from the right side of the driver's seat and cushion the center of the vehicle. These minimize injuries in rollover and side crashes.
All vehicle airbags work to reduce injury and trauma in a collision by cocooning the occupants in a cushion. They are particularly helpful in head and torso protection. All this is based on a ruling by the NHTSA in 2011 stating that vehicle airbag systems are aimed at reducing partial and complete vehicle ejections in which the occupants are launched out of a crashed vehicle. All automakers have been in compliance with this ruling since 2017.

The Future of Safe Travel

Methods of personal transport continue to evolve and in recent years, automakers have added amazing technology in the form of safety and driver assist features. These active safety systems include ways of detecting possible obstacles and keeping us from colliding with them. They employ radar, cameras, and various sensors to keep our cars in a protective bubble and the occupants safe from harm. These pre-collision systems include blind spot monitoring, cross traffic alert, automated braking systems, lane departure alert and lane-keep assist. Some systems include adaptive cruise control that detect a collision from the front or rear of the vehicle, and night vision, while other new systems border on autonomous travel.

According to the world's car manufacturers, the future is clearly in all-electric vehicles that are capable of driving themselves. By removing the human element of error, cars will be less likely to come in contact with other cars, pedestrians and obstacles. After all, we're only human.
All of these technologies will improve crash avoidance and mitigation. Future airbags will be able to use cameras and sensors to deploy just before a crash happens, reducing injuries due to deployment. Eventually, we may find that SDS systems will evolve beyond the use of airbags as we know them today, instead injecting a gel or foam into the cabin of the vehicle to pad and protect us in a soft cushion of insulation in which we will float safely, dissipating quickly when the crash is over.
Safest Cars - Let Lithia Help!
If a new car is in your future, you'll want a vehicle with top scores from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These institutions perform extensive crash tests on all vehicles and rate them in accordance with how they perform in a number of crash scenarios. It's not easy to keep up with ever-changing safety technology and the IIHS and NHTSA standards are high for its top picks.
If you're looking for a safe vehicle, let Lithia Motors help. We've been in the business of providing safe personal transportation for over 75 years and have over 260 dealerships from coast-to-coast to serve you, plus offer the ability for you to find and purchase a vehicle right from your living room using Driveway. The future may choose what and how you drive, but Lithia Motors will be here to get you where you need to go… safely.