Pedestrian protection is increasingly becoming one of the priorities in vehicular safety. In fact, Euro NCAP includes pedestrian protection as of one of the four aspects by which it rates overall safety in vehicles. Now, Mercedes-Benz is trying to get ahead of its rivals in the field of pedestrian protection by registering a patent that would allow the German premium carmaker to install external airbags.
According to its patent application with United States Patent and Trademark Office, the pedestrian protection device includes a bonnet that could be popped up or opened in order to further soften an impact. The car is fitted with a number of sensors that could detect when the vehicle hits a pedestrian. As soon as the car senses that a collision has occurred against the edge of the bonnet, this part of the vehicle would shift in the direction of the windscreen.
The pedestrian protection device also includes two airbags, which when triggered, would extend across a region of the windscreen pillar, which is also known as the A pillar. The airbag would have a cylindrical shape -- or even an oval shape -- and would be fitted inside a fabric tube. The associated actuator system is also fitted in the fabric tube. One end of the fabric tube would be connected to the edge of the bonnet or to the hinge of the hood. Meanwhile, the other end is fixed to front frame cross-member of the roof or to the A-pillar.
As it is, the airbags are covered by a decorative element that effectively conceals the A-pillar 5 and is not depicted in more detail such that it is not able to be seen in the figure. These airbags are triggered as soon as a pedestrian collision is detected. To unfold and increase the volume of the airbags, gas is supplied into them. The bonnet is simultaneously unlocked so it could be opened and shifted.
All these actions are expected to soften the impact of the collision. Instead of hitting the windshield glass or the surrounding metal, the pedestrian would bump into the raised bonnet or into the airbags.
To note, this patent application was applied more than two years ago in July 2015. However, the US Patent and Trademark Office only published the patent on August 3, 2017.
Carmakers are racing to improve the pedestrian safety aspect of their vehicles. Volvo, Porsche and BMW have their own safety systems that should increase the survivability of pedestrians when they are hit by their vehicles. Some of these pedestrian protection systems include active bonnets and warning features.