A `smart’ airbag system, designed by Visteon Automotive Systems, will be offered to vehicle manufacturers worldwide within the next few months.
Despite the high level of protection already supplied by airbags, related injuries are not uncommon. Visteon claims to have reduced this risk by designing a system which assesses the force of vehicle impact, the stature of the front-seat occupants, and whether or not they are wearing seatbelts.
In the event of a crash, a sensor at the front of the car detects the severity of the impact, sensors in the seat track estimate the distance of the seat from the steering wheel, and a pressure sensitive film in the seat estimates the occupant’s weight. At the same time, sensors in the seat belt buckles detect whether or not the belts are in use.
All of this information is then fed into a central electronics control module which will decide how the dual stage airbags are deployed: whether with full or part force, or not at all. In addition, the sensors in the passenger seat also assess the distribution of weight by detecting pressure at different points around the seat. In this way, the system can detect whether the pressure on the seat is likely to be caused by, for example, a human being or a briefcase. If it is only a briefcase then the airbag will not inflate.