Ford's Inflatable Bumper Fixes The Big Problem With Trucks And SUVs

Technology / 17 Comments

Ford has an answer to the IIHS study showing that big vehicles are deadlier to pedestrians.

Ford is working on an innovative new inflatable bumper for trucks and SUVs that aims to improve pedestrian safety, and it could not have come at a more apt time. A recent study from the IIHS confirms what we all already knew - trucks and SUVs with big, blocky front ends are far more hazardous to pedestrians than other vehicles. The IIHS wants changes made to the designs of these large vehicles, but often, these wall-like front ends serve a practical purpose like increasing the approach angle of off-roaders like the F-150 Raptor.

The solution lies in a patent CarBuzz discovered at the United States Patent and Trademark Office, which aims to improve pedestrian safety without changing the design of these vehicles, but it does introduce a little more complexity and cost.

Ford's Inflatable Bumper CarBuzz USPTO USPTO USPTO
Ford's Inflatable Bumper

The patent details how the front end of a square-faced beast like a Bronco could feature one inflatable bumper that emerges from above the traditional bumper and another from below. This would behave in much the same way as a traditional airbag does, in that an impact sensor would detect the collision and immediately inflate the membranes using a pyrotechnic or stored gas inflator.

These inflatable bumpers are not intended to cushion a pedestrian. Instead, the idea is that these two inflatable bumpers will work together to "reduce the relative movement between the femur and the tibia" - in other words, provide knee support to prevent a leg break. The lower inflatable would also help prevent a pedestrian from falling beneath the moving car.


This is not the first such idea that Ford has come up with. Just two months ago, CarBuzz discovered a similar patent for a shapeshifting bumper that also aims to reduce pedestrian injury without compromising off-road ability. Both ideas will add significant complexity and cost to vehicles, but that was the case with the lifesaving airbags found in the cabin, too.

The most obvious solution is simply to improve the basic design and shape of the pickup/SUV, but the modern consumer always wants their new truck to be bigger than their old one, making ever-larger wall-faced fascias impossible to escape.

This obsession with more size and space is having a big impact on motorists and pedestrians alike, but without changes at the legislative level, cars of all shapes will only grow, so Ford must find a way to remain competitive with its rivals while still upholding its commitment to safety. Got a better idea? Let's hear it.


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