- honda's new airbag was developed by engineers at honda's ohio r&d center in conjunction with pioneering safety-system manufacturer autoliv, part of honda's safety for everyone initiative.
- the bag has three inflatable compartments and a "sail panel" that arrests and decelerates movement of the occupant's head.
- honda plans to start rolling out the new airbags on u.s. models during the 2020 calendar year.
according to the national highway traffic safety administration (nhtsa), in 2017 about 37,000 people lost their lives on u.s. roadways as a result of motor-vehicle traffic crashes. of those, an unbelievable 47 percent were not wearing their seatbelts. although that number represents a slight decrease from the previous two years, it's still a dismal statistic that honda hopes to improve on with its new multi-chamber airbag for front-seat passengers.
the new airbag technology is designed to protect occupants in a wide range of front crash types. it was developed by engineers at honda's ohio r&d center, working with safety-system manufacturer autoliv. honda says the airbag is especially protective in crashes between two vehicles, or between a vehicle and a stationary object. in particular, it is designed to be more protective in angled frontal impacts where the passenger's head could rotate severely or slide off the airbag.
it utilizes a three-chamber inflatable design aided by a noninflatable "sail panel" component. honda describes the integrated pieces as a "catcher's mitt" of sorts, the two outward-projecting side chambers creating a wide base across the dash with the sail panel stretching between them during inflation. the sail panel catches and gently—at least in comparison to a typical airbag—arrests the forward movement of the occupant's head, and that force simultaneously pulls the side chambers in to cradle the head. honda notes that the "geometry of the cushion" is a key element in preventing the head from rotating, which preliminary research indicates can contribute to traumatic brain injuries. inertia is unyielding, and arresting high-speed movement of the human skull without damage requires a delicate balance of force and cushion.
demonstrated in the video at top, the new airbag functionality is complemented by a knee airbag as well as the dramatic pretensioning of the three-point belts. while honda continues to evaluate this design and others, it is currently developed specifically for the unique needs of the passenger side of the vehicle.
honda was the first manufacturer to employ the upward-deploying airbag back in 1990, a design that would grow to become common across the industry. while honda believes the new multi-chamber bag will follow a similar path, the patent does contain a "first to manufacture" clause effective for an undisclosed period of time.
in a more abstract fashion, the new airbag serves as an opportunity for the maker to further distance itself from the disastrous takata airbag debacle that afflicted numerous manufacturers in previous years. honda hasn't used takata inflators for more than two years (takata filed for bankruptcy in june 2016) and told us the inflator for the new airbag is manufactured by autoliv, honda's partner in the development of the new multi-compartment inflatable restraint.
as part of its efforts to bring its comprehensive safety efforts back to the forefront, the maker is reemphasizing its "safety for everyone" mantra as a blanket philosophy for all its current and emerging safety technologies. as part of the initiative, honda plans to make its honda sensing suite of safety and driver-assistive systems (automated emergency braking, road-departure mitigation, lane-keeping assist, traffic-sign recognition, and adaptive cruise control) standard across the lineup by 2022.