Airbags provide critical cushioning for people during a crash. They"re generally hidden however inflate instantly once a crash begins.Front airbags have been compelled in all brand-new passenger vehicles because the 1999 design year.Side airbags aren"t particularly mandated, but virtually all manufacturers incorporate them as standard equipment in stimulate to meet federal side defense requirements.

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Both front and also side airbags save lives.

Engineers store finding new ways to usage airbags.

Rear-window curtain airbags room designed to protect world in ago seats in rear-end crashes.Far-side airbags keep drivers and front-seat passengers from hitting each other in a crash.Inflatable safety and security belts are aimed at reducing rear-seat chest injuries.

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How front and also side airbags work

Airbags are blow up cushions constructed into a vehicle that protect occupants native hitting the car interior or objects outside the automobile (for example, other vehicles or trees) throughout a collision.

The instant a crash begins, sensors begin to measure affect severity. If the crash is major enough, the sensors signal inflators to fill the bags v gas in a portion of a second.

Airbags don"t generally require maintenance uneven they deploy in a crash. In that case, they need to be changed at a repair shop that supplies original equipment manufacturer (OEM) replacement parts to ensure that the brand-new airbag is no counterfeit. Counterfeit airbags might fail to deploy or release steel shrapnel during deployment.

Front airbags

Since the 1999 model year, the federal federal government has forced automakers to download driver and passenger airbags for frontal impact protection in all cars, irradiate trucks and also vans.

Front airbags are designed to inflate in center to significant frontal crashes to prevent a person"s head and also chest from contacting difficult structures in the vehicle.

They sell the most protection when residents are wearing safety and security belts and sitting correctly in the seat yet are design to administer protection for every occupants.

Newer airbags have a safety belt sensor and use one algorithm to decide whether come deploy the bag in a given crash, relying on whether world are using safety belts.

Typically, a front airbag will certainly deploy because that unbelted inhabitants when the crash is the equivalent of an impact into a rigid wall at 10-12 mph. Many airbags will deploy in ~ a higher threshold — about 16 mph — for belted occupants due to the fact that the belts alone are most likely to provide adequate security up to this moderate speeds.

Front airbags might deploy to aid protect citizens in side effects if over there is sufficient forward movement during the crash.

The driver airbag is situated in the steering wheel. The passenger airbag is situated in the dashboard.

Front dual airbag system
Knee airbag (BMW)

Some manufacturers administer supplemental knee airbags, placed lower. Knee airbags are intended come distribute affect forces to alleviate leg injuries. They might also aid reduce forces on one occupant"s chest and also abdomen by regulating movement of the occupant"s reduced body.

Side airbags

Head- and also chest-protecting side airbags room designed come inflate in side crashes to stop people"s heads and also chests from contacting intruding parts of automobile side structure, a striking auto or an item such as a tree or pole. Next airbags cushion and spread the load of results to avoid any component of the human body from sustaining concentrated impact forces.

A head-protecting side airbag is specifically important because it may be the only thing in between the occupant"s head and also the to mark vehicle, since home window glass deserve to shatter in a crash.

Because the the little space between an occupant and the next of the vehicle, next airbags need to deploy very quickly, generally within the first 10-20 milliseconds of a side crash. Deployment thresholds can be together low as 8 mph for small object crashes (e.g., trees and also poles) and 18 mph for the more widely distributed side results (vehicle-to-vehicle crashes). Next airbags also deploy in certain varieties of frontal crashes.

A commonwealth regulation ~ above side-impact defense requires a certain level of head and also torso protection for every occupants. While the doesn"t specifically mandate side airbags, the compelled protection is typically accomplished with them. Together of the 2014 version year, practically all brand-new passenger vehicles should comply through this regulation. As a result, the vast bulk of passenger vehicles come through side airbags as traditional equipment.

A head-protecting curtain airbag is often the only barrier between the dummy"s head and also the to mark vehicle.

Different species of side airbag systems

A combination airbag, deploying indigenous the seatback, provides protection because that the head and also torso.
A head-protecting curtain airbag, i m sorry deploys from the roof rail, and a seat-mounted torso-protecting airbag
A head-protecting curtain airbag and seat-mounted torso and also pelvis-protecting airbag
A head-protecting curtain airbag deploying from the door and also seat-mounted torso and pelvis-protecting airbag

Rollover deployment of side airbags

Side curtain airbags deserve to be designed come deploy in a rollover crash. Sensors that measure a vehicle"s sideways movement and also tilting deserve to detect if a rollover is about to occur, triggering deployment. This airbags typically inflate within the very first 10-20 milliseconds of a rollover crash and can remain inflated longer than continual side curtain airbags (10 or more seconds) to safeguard during multiple-roll crashes. They frequently cover the window opening and inflate an ext stiffly to protect against ejection of the occupant.

The government doesn"t specifically call for side curtain airbags v this capability, however automakers have actually been making use of them to fulfill a necessity that every 2018 or newer vehicles stop occupant ejection with side windows.

A side curtain airbag offered to satisfy the federal security standard to avoid occupant ejection continues to be inflated for much more than 10 seconds, covering multiple rolfes of the vehicle, and keeps occupants included inside.

Lives saved by airbags

NHTSA approximates that together of 2017, 50,457 lives have actually been saved by frontal airbags (National center for Statistics and Analysis, 2020).

In frontal crashes, front airbags alleviate driver fatalities by 29 percent and also fatalities that front-seat passengers age 13 and also older by 32 percent (Kahane, 2015). NHTSA estimates that the mix of one airbag plus a lap and shoulder belt reduce the risk of fatality in frontal crashes by 61 percent, compared with a 50 percent reduction for belts alone and a 34 percent reduction because that airbags alone.

NHTSA approximates that together of 2012, 2,252 lives have been conserved by side airbags (Kahane, 2015).

Side airbags with head protection reduce a car driver"s threat of fatality in driver-side crashes through 37 percent and also an SUV driver"s threat by 52 percent (McCartt & Kyrychenko, 2007).

A research of crashes in Australia discovered that side airbags v head and torso protection reduce a vehicle driver"s danger of fatality or injury in driver-side crashes through 41 percent (D"Elia et al., 2013). Similar trends were uncovered in a NHTSA study concentrating on the fatality danger to drivers and right-front-seat passenger vehicles associated in nearside crashes. Curtain airbags and torso airbags together alleviate the hazard of fatality by 31 percent, and combination head/torso airbags reduce the hazard by 25 percent (Kahane, 2014). The fatality reduction was lower in vehicles equipped only with a curtain airbag (16 percent) or only with a torso airbag (8 percent).

The critical role played by head-protecting side airbags is portrayed by the outcomes of side crash tests. Because the program began in 2003, all the vehicles earning great ratings have actually been equipped v side airbags that protect the head. However, airbags alone aren"t enough. Vehicles also need side structures that resist significant intrusion right into the occupant compartment.

Airbag injuries

Occasionally, the power required to quickly inflate airbags can reason injury to civilization sitting or thrown as well close to the airbag prior to it deploys. This to be a serious worry with the an initial generations the frontal airbags, which deployed with better force.

NHTSA estimates that throughout 1990-2008, an ext than 290 deaths were brought about by frontal airbag inflation in low-speed crashes (National facility for Statistics and Analysis, 2017). Nearly 90 percent the the deaths occurred in vehicles manufactured before 1998, and much more than 80 percent of people killed to be unbelted or improperly restrained. Many of the deaths were passengers, and more than 90 percent of those were children and infants, many of whom to be unbelted or in rear-facing child safety and security seats that placed their top close to the deploying airbag. Short and elderly drivers, who have tendency to sit close come the steering wheel, likewise were vulnerable to inflation injuries from frontal airbags.

Today, thanks to alters in government requirements, serious injuries from effectively functioning airbags space rare.

The alters came in two phases. In the first, federal rules were modified to encourage automakers to minimize the energy in former airbags. Depowering began with 1998 models. Later, NHTSA approve a certified-advanced airbag dominance that required more sophisticated airbags in all passenger vehicles by the 2007 design year.

Advanced airbags modify deployment patterns if weight sensors detect a tiny driver or front-seat passenger or a child security seat. Manufacturers need to pass a suite that tests using different-size dummies, belted and also unbelted, in a selection of crash test speeds and configurations.

Side airbags additionally can deploy v enough power to cause injury, although they generally are smaller and deploy v less energy than frontal airbags. Injuries from call with side airbag inflations in crashes have been documented (Kahane, 2015), however there is no indication the such injuries room common. A field study of kids in next crashes discovered no increased risk that injury to children age 15 and also younger associated with next airbag deployment (Arbogast & Kallan, 2007).

Faulty airbags also can damaged people. The government worries recalls because that vehicles v faulty airbag solution that an outcome in boosted risk the injury in a crash. Factors can incorporate failure come deploy, incorrect timing or energy of deployments, and also defective parts. Recalled airbags need to be replaced to certain that residents receive the optimal level of protection in a crash.

Consumers can uncover information top top recalls affecting your vehicles in the NHTSA remind database. The database also has info on business centers that are authorized to fix recalled vehicles cost-free of charge.

The Takata airbag recall, which started in 2015, is the largest recall in U.S. History, through an estimated 70 million vehicles to it is in recalled by 2019. The problem that triggered the recall has actually been tied to 15 confirmed deaths in the U.S. And much more than 250 reported injuries.

What have the right to occupants carry out to stop injuries native airbags?

Drivers and front-seat passengers need to sit in the center of the chair upright versus the seatback with feet on the floor.Arms and also legs have to never it is in resting versus an airbag due to the fact that the pressures of a deploying airbag and the warm gases exhausted by the airbag may cause injury.Avoid aftermarket dash or chair covers, which can block or redirect a deploying airbag.Young children should sit in the behind seat. If a boy does have to ride in the prior seat, the seat must be together far ago as feasible and the child have to be securely buckled in a lap/shoulder belt and also sitting versus the seatback.Children shouldn"t lean versus the door area whereby the next airbag is stored due to the fact that the initial deployment pressure may be harmful. Through or there is no an airbag, kids who lean versus doors or lied down through their heads close to the doors or political parties of vehicles room at higher risk the injury in the occasion of a side impact.For ladies in the so late stages the pregnancy, a mix of effectively positioned safety and security belts and airbags supplies the ideal protection. Like other drivers, pregnant motorists should ensure their abdomens space at least 10 inches indigenous the steering wheel. The lap belt have to be positioned high top top the thighs (ideally on pelvic bones), listed below the soft part of the abdomen.

As an innovation advances, manufacturers room finding brand-new ways to combine airbags into vehicles.

Inflatable chair belts

In 2011 Ford rolled out an inflatable seat belt aimed in ~ reducing rear-seat injuries. The blow up seat belt is plan to boost protection for adults and for kids using booster seats or chair belts alone. In a crash, the shoulder belt inflates, distributing crash forces throughout the torso and chest.

The inflatable belts room currently obtainable as optional equipment in the outboard second-row seating positions of number of Ford and Lincoln vehicles. The Mercedes-Benz S-Class comes v standard inflatable belts.

Ford inflatable seat belt (Ford engine Company)

Far-side airbag

Also recognized as the front-center airbag, the far-side airbag is draft to avoid front passengers from colliding with each other during side-impact crashes and to keep occupant position in far-side or rollover crashes. General Motors was the first to present the front-center airbag in 2013.

Toyota has occurred a comparable concept aimed at rear-seat passenger protection that deploys indigenous the behind row"s center console.

In 2020, EuroNCAP presented a new side crash test to promote far-side airbags. A far-side airbag is currently obtainable on the Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia, Buick Enclave, Genesis G80 and also Genesis GV80. 

GM far-side airbag (GM press release)

Panoramic sunroof airbag

In 2017, Hyundai Mobis, an automotive supplier, presented the very first panoramic roof curtain airbag. That is to plan to avoid ejection of inhabitants through the sunroof throughout rollovers.

NHTSA has determined 260 residents ejected with sunroofs from 2000-2015 and also the problem is intended to thrive as summary sunroofs become much more popular.

Many design challenges delay the implementation of these kinds of airbags in vehicles. The airbag should properly deploy through the sunroof open or closed and also be stored in the headliner without interfering through headroom or visibility.

Hyundai Mobis sunroof airbag (Hyundai push release)

Seat cushion airbag

Seat cushion airbags are designed come reduce forces on one occupant"s chest and also abdomen by managing movement of the occupant"s body. Currently, the Toyota Yaris come equipped v a chair cushion airbag.

Seat cushion airbag (Toyota press site)

Rear seat airbag

Rear chair airbags room being developed to administer head security for behind passengers. Behind seat airbags are situated in the back of the former seat and also deploy with less force than traditional airbags. Lock are only partially inflated, unlike normal, full-powered airbags, so even if the airbags call objects or son seats, lock deflect instead of striking them. Mercedes-Benz is to plan to introduce this optional airbag ~ above the following generation of S-Class.

Rear seat airbag (Daimler)

Flexible seating airbag systems

Future vehicles v flexible seating choices (reclining seats, campfire configurations, etc.) will require innovative airbag solution for protection. Airbag companies are emerging seat-mounted airbag solution that provide cocoonlike defense for passengers. Two instances are Autoliv’s Life cell airbag and Joyson’s Embrace.

Future airbag ide (Autoliv)

Precrash outside side airbag system

The external side airbag, developed by ZF, is design to alleviate crash pressures on a auto during side crashes. This airbag uses precrash sensors come detect an imminent side impact and deploys a large external airbag from under the next sill that the auto to cover the driver and rear passenger doors. When inflated, that is approximately the size of a life raft. There are right now no manufacturing vehicles v this technology. 

External next airbag (ZF)

External hood airbag

Volvo occurred the an initial hood airbag designed because that pedestrian protection. Once a collision v a pedestrian is detected, an exterior airbag deploys native under the hood and covers the difficult parts of the windshield and also the A-pillar, locations that pedestrians generally strike. The pedestrian hood airbag is standard on the Volvo V40, easily accessible only in Europe, starting with the 2013 design year.

Volvo hood airbag (Volvo press site)

Motorcycle airbag

A frontal airbag is readily available as an alternative on 2006 and also later models that Honda"s gold Wing touring motorcycle. Honda"s airbag is designed come deploy in severe frontal impacts and absorb some of the forward power of the driver. No studies have been carried out on the real-world effectiveness of motorcycle airbags.

Honda yellow Wing touring motorcycle through frontal airbag (Honda media)

Motorcyclist vest airbag

Wearable crash-activated airbag vests are one more option because that motorcyclists. The vests, obtainable from several companies, including AlpineStars tech Air, HitAir, and also Helite, are designed to safeguard the rider"s neck, torso, and also spine during a crash.

During common riding, a tether associate the vest come the motorcycle. During a crash event, as soon as the rider and the bike begin to separate, the tether is pulled, activating a CO2 cartridge to inflate the vest within milliseconds. This canister is replaceable, an interpretation the jacket or vest is reusable.

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Motorcycle airbag vest (Helite website)
Helite vest airbag (Helite website)

Bicycle helmet airbag

A bicycle helmet airbag has been emerged in Sweden through Hovding. The airbag for bicyclists is expected to be used instead of a classic helmet. It is designed to deploy out of a collar worn roughly the neck as soon as sensors detect abnormal motion of the cyclist indicating a crash. The airbag deploys in one-tenth of a second.