GM introduces industry’s first front center airbag

Article by Christian Andrei, on September 30, 2011

A center airbag will be introduced by General Motors on the 2013 Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Chevrolet Traverse crossovers. This airbag will be positioned between the front seats and it is intended to protect the driver and front passenger in side-impact crashes. It is placed on the right side of the driver's seat. In the event of a side-impact crash, the airbag inflates between the front seats.

This safety feature will be available as standard on all Enclaves as well as on Acadia and Traverse models with power seats.

According to the fatality analysis reporting system database of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, side-impact crashes make up 11% of the belted front occupant deaths in nonrollover impacts between 2004 and 2009. The impacts affected 1999 model or newer vehicles. GM said that in 29% of all the belted front occupant fatalities in side impacts, the occupant was on the nonstruck side of the vehicle.

In a statement, Scott Thomas, senior staff engineer in GM's advanced restraint systems, said that federal laws don’t require the front center airbag. He added that there’s no other airbag used on current passenger vehicles that provide the type of restraint and cushioning this airbag provides for front occupants.

The development of the airbag by GM and Japanese supplier Takata Corp. was accomplished in three years. Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said that there’s “real potential” for the front center airbag to save lives in side crashes.

The front center airbag is seen to help GM maintain its record in third-party crash test performance. The 2012 models of GM’s midsize crossovers have been given a five-star Overall and Side Crash safety ratings by the NHTSA’s New Car Assessment Program, as well as being one of the 2011 Top Safety Picks from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety president Adrian Lund said that the front center airbag can really save lives in the event of side crashes, adding that both GM and Takata should be commended for pioneering moves in this area.

GM and Takata created the front center airbag within three years and tested many designs to help get the right restraint, cushioning and packaging for a range of occupant positions and crashes. The jointly patented cushion design takes into account a variety of occupant sizes as well as having one-of-a-kind performance characteristics.

GM executive director of vehicle safety and crashworthiness Gay Kent explains that there is no restraint technology currently available that can account for all potential injuries and body regions, but the front center air bag can work with other airbags and safety harnesses to give riders a comprehensive restraint system. Kent adds that the technology is a testament of the carmaker’s commitment to give their cars’ occupants proper protection in the event of a crash.

General Motors is one of the biggest automakers in the world and has been in the market since 1908. The carmaker has its headquarters in Detroit and employs 208,000 people around the world. It has operations in at least 120 countries. The carmakers, along with its partners produce trucks and cars in 30 countries. It is also connected to several brands such as Baojun, Cadillac, Buick, GMC, Chevrolet, Isuzu, Jiefang, Daewoo, Holden, Vauxhall, Wuling, and Opel. Its Chevrolet brand celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2011. GM’s biggest national markets include China, the United States, Brazil, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, and Canada. GM’s OnStar subsidiary is the leader in vehicle safety, information and security services. Visit www.gm.com to learn more about the carmaker.

Press Release

GM Introduces Industry's First Front Center Air Bag

General Motors will introduce the industry’s first front center air bag, an inflatable restraint designed to help protect drivers and front passengers in far-side impact crashes where the affected occupant is on the opposite, non-struck side of the vehicle.

The front center air bag will be introduced on the Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia, and Chevrolet Traverse midsize crossovers in the 2013 model year. This new safety feature will be standard on Acadia and Traverse with power seats and all Enclaves.

The front center air bag deploys from the right side of the driver’s seat and positions itself between the front row seats near the center of the vehicle. This tethered, tubular air bag is designed to provide restraint during passenger-side crashes when the driver is the only front occupant, and also acts as an energy absorbing cushion between driver and front passenger in both driver- and passenger-side crashes. The air bag also is expected to provide benefit in rollovers.

GM analysis of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System database, found that far-side impact crashes, which the front center airbag primarily addresses, accounted for 11 percent of the belted front occupant fatalities in non-rollover impacts between 2004 and 2009 involving 1999 model year or newer vehicles. These far-side fatalities, where the occupant is on the non-struck side of the vehicle, also represent 29 percent of all the belted front occupant fatalities in side impacts.

“The front center air bag is not required by federal regulation, and no other air bag in passenger vehicles today offers the type of restraint and cushioning this air bag is designed to provide for front occupants,” said Scott Thomas, senior staff engineer in GM’s advanced restraint systems.

The front center air bag is expected to add to the vehicles’ record of third-party crash test performance. The 2012 model year editions of these midsize crossovers have received five-star Overall and Side Crash safety ratings from NHTSA’s New Car Assessment Program, and 2011 Top Safety Picks from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

“The front center 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 to be commended for taking the lead in this important area.”

GM and technology supplier Takata developed the front center air bag over the course of three years, testing many design iterations to achieve packaging, cushioning, and restraint for a variety of crashes and occupant positions. Numerous elements of the air bag’s jointly patented cushion design address the restraint’s unique performance characteristics while considering a range of occupant sizes.

“While no restraint technology can address all body regions or all potential injuries, the front center air bag is designed to work with the other air bags and safety belts in the vehicles to collectively deliver an even more comprehensive occupant restraint system,” said Gay Kent, GM executive director of Vehicle Safety and Crashworthiness. “This technology is a further demonstration of GM’s above-and-beyond commitment to provide continuous occupant protection before, during and after a crash.”

General Motors (NYSE:GM, TSX: GMM), one of the world’s largest automakers, traces its roots back to 1908. With its global headquarters in Detroit, GM employs 208,000 people in every major region of the world and does business in more than 120 countries. GM and its strategic partners produce cars and trucks in 30 countries, and sell and service these vehicles through the following brands: Baojun, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Daewoo, Holden, Isuzu, Jiefang, Opel, Vauxhall, and Wuling. The global Chevrolet brand celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2011. GM’s largest national market is China, followed by the United States, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, and Italy. GM’s OnStar subsidiary is the industry leader in vehicle safety, security and information services. More information on the new General Motors can be found at www.gm.com.

Topics: gm, technology, safety

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