Airbags are passive safety devices that was exclusive to high end vehicles as recent as the
1990's and The Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) airbag can now be found on all private and commercial
vehicles manufactured these days because of the value to passenger safety. Although airbags can be
found on the simplest of vehicles, their advancements over the years is what keeps them as a topic
worth discussing for high end vehicles.
The airbag itself is made of nylon and is coated with either cornstarch, chalk or powder
to keep the bags lubricated while in storage and preserve the life of the bag. The entire system
contains sensors which sends a signal when they detect a collision at or above a pre determined
force. This signal is used to rapidly heat nitrogen to inflate the bag(s). The above takes place
in 20 to 30 milliseconds and the airbag should be deflated in under a second as hitting an airbag
that doesn't deflate is almost as bad as hitting the steering or dashboard during an accident.
The side airbags can be found in the doors or seats, curtain airbags can be found in the pillars
or the edge of the roof where they meet the pillars, knee airbags in the door, rear airbags in the
roof above the rear seats. They all have their individual sensors and they protect occupants during
impacts from the front, the side, the rear and even during a rollover.
One of the factors that separates high end vehicles along this subject will be quantity of
airbags that can be found in the vehicle.
Two airbags can be found in the average vehicle, one for the driver and one for the front seat
passenger to cater for impacts to the front of the vehicle only.
High end vehicles have these two airbags and a combination of or all of the following - side
impact airbags and torso airbags, curtain airbags, rear curtain and knee airbags. Some vehicles have
a total of over nine airbags.
Their intelligence has increased through crash testing and
research. Both instances may be equally as fast for the human reflexes but because of the engine compartment
the impact from the front will take longer to reach occupants than side impacts because of the significantly
smaller amount of mass at the side of the vehicle. Taking this into consideration any type of side airbag
must inflate several milliseconds faster than those in the front and this has been achieved.
Airbag systems must now be intelligent as they cater for different types of collisions. For
instance if a frontal collision occurs only the frontal airbags should inflate. If the vehicle is
struck on the left side the airbags related to the left side should inflate and not both sides. Your
vehicle knows which airbag (or airbags) to inflate and it decides this in a few milliseconds.
Research has also shown that a rollover accident may last longer than a direct collision so curtain
and other airbags used to offer protection during a rollover will remain inflated for several seconds as
opposed to inflation and deflation of other airbags in a second or less. They just take long to deflate but
they still inflate at the required lightening speed.
Airbags continue to add to the value and safety of high end vehicles and I don't see them going
anywhere as long as vehicles continue to be manufactured.