Airbag could cut fatalities from far-side impact collisions

GM has developed an airbag in a bid to cut fatalities from far-side impact collisions.

The industry’s first front-centre airbag is reported to protect the driver and the front passenger in far-side impact crashes.

These are crashes where the affected occupant is on the opposite, non-struck side of the vehicle.

The developers say the tethered, tubular, airbag blows up to fill the space between the front row seats near the centre of the vehicle and is designed to provide restraint during passenger-side crashes. It is also reported to provide benefit in rollovers.

GM and technology supplier Takata tested several design interations to achieve the right packaging, cushioning, and restraint for a variety of crashes and occupant positions.

Scott Thomas, senior staff engineer in GM’s advanced restraints system, said in a statement: ‘The front-centre airbag is not required by federal regulation, and no other airbag in passenger vehicles today offers the type of restraint and cushioning this airbag is designed to provide for front occupants.’

The front airbag will be introduced on the Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Chevrolet Traverse in the 2013 model year. These models have all received five-star Overall and Side Crash safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration New Car Assessment Program.

GM analysis of previous accidents, found that far-side impact crashes, accounted for 11 per cent of the belted-front occupant fatalities in non-rollover impacts between 2004–09 involving 1999 model year or newer vehicles.

Gay Kent, GM executive director of vehicle safety and crashworthiness, claimed the front-centre airbag is designed to work with the other safety features in vehicles to collectively deliver an even more comprehensive occupant restraint system.

‘The front-centre airbag has real potential to save lives in side crashes,’ said Adrian Lund, president of the insurance Institute for Highway Safety. ‘GM and Takata are being commended for taking the lead in this important area.’