The air bag has been instrumental in saving the lives of many crash victims since it was first sold to the public in the 1973 Oldsmobile Toronado and today is an accepted fitment in pretty much all cars.
However, the quick deflation of the bag after its intial detonation means there is no protection in the case of a secondary impact – where the car hits one object and is then propelled into another.
Designed to significantly improve air bag performance in multi-collision accidents, Kia Motors Corporation – as part of the Hyundai Motor Group – has announced the development and future commercialisation of the world’s first multi-collision air bag system.
Multi-collision accidents are those in which the primary impact is followed by collisions with secondary objects, such as other vehicles, trees, or electrical posts, which occur in three out of every 10 accidents.
Current air bag systems do not offer secondary protection when the initial impact is insufficient to cause them to deploy. However, the multi-collision air bag system allows air bags to deploy effectively upon a secondary impact by calibrating the status of the vehicle and the occupants.
The new technology detects occupants’ positions in the cabin following an initial collision. When occupants are forced into unusual positions, the effectiveness of existing safety technology may be compromised. Multi-collision air bag systems are designed to deploy even faster when initial safety systems may not be effective, providing additional safety when drivers and passengers are most vulnerable.
By recalibrating the collision intensity required for deployment, the air bag system responds more promptly during the secondary impact, thereby improving the safety of multi-collision vehicle occupants.
“By improving air bag performance in multi-collision scenarios, we expect to significantly improve the safety of our drivers and passengers,” says Taesoo Chi, head of the Hyundai Motor Group’s Chassis Technology Centre. “We will continue our research on more diverse crash situations as part of our commitment to producing even safer vehicles that protect occupants and prevent injuries.”
According to statistics by the National Automotive Sampling System Crashworthiness Data System (NASS-CDS), an office of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in USA, about 30% of 56 000 vehicle accidents from 2000 to 2012 in the North American region involved multi-collisions.
The leading type of multi-collision accidents involved cars crossing over the centre line (30,8%), followed by collisions caused by a sudden stop at highway tollgates (13,5%), highway median strip collisions (8,0%) and sideswiping and collision with trees and electric poles (4,0%).
These multi-collision scenarios were analysed in multilateral ways to improve air bag performance and precision in secondary collisions. Once commercialised, the system will be implemented in future new Kia vehicles.