In 2018, 22,891 motor vehicle passenger lives were lost, 10,302 of which were in single car accidents, in the U.S. alone. Acura, the luxury vehicle division of Honda is working on a new type of airbag to reduce fatalities and injuries experienced in the front seat.
The new three-chamber airbag deploys in three parts shaped like the letter "U", one frontal and two from sides to function similarly to a baseball glove. Two side bags ensure that the head does not stray away from the dashboard during an accident and help achieve a slower, more controlled deceleration for the passenger's head and upper body.
An advanced dummy, Thor
This new technology was developed thanks to another new crash test dummy, Thor. This crash dummy is designed to reproduce the effects of high-velocity collisions on the human body better than before. With more fidelity to our biomechanical properties, research and development teams are able to predict real-world injuries with much higher precision.
Research and development teams found that during a crash, the velocity is not always directed at a right angle, oblique crashes lead to torsion of the neck, thorax, and spine. After hundreds of tests of all kinds such as sled tests, static collision tests, and of course real-vehicle crash tests, the U-shaped airbag is found to preserve more function, especially in oblique crashes.
Dire consequences of motor vehicle collisions
Three-chamber airbag performs especially well against diffuse axonal injuries (DAI) compared to traditional airbags. When the head rapidly accelerates and decelerates (as would happen in a high-velocity car collision) axon endings connecting neurons to one another can get torn apart, often resulting in a coma. The R&D team of Honda and Acura are aiming to lower the prevalence of this injury with their technology. The partner company Autoliv will also able to produce this novel safety item for other OEMs it seems.
Acura TLX's 2021 model is also going to hit the markets equipped with a safety-enhancing driver-assist technology. For sure Thom Yorke would be overjoyed to hear about this.