Because not every crash is head on.
We've all seen steering-wheel and dashboard airbags at this point, and a proliferation of more throughout modern vehicles. An airbag is, essentially, a large balloon that inflates when impact is imminent and acts as a cushion between your body and a solid object. The problem Honda sees with the current standard airbag design is that it doesn't take into account that, according to Honda, 56 percent of impacts aren't head-on collisions. More than half involve the car connecting with something at an angle, meaning that the human head can bounce off the existing airbag and hit something that isn't skull friendly. Honda's new airbag, not developed with Takata, is designed to reduce the potential for injuries by using three inflated compartments.
The three compartments of the airbag are made up of a center section that absorbs the forward impact and then two outward-projecting side chambers that create a wide base across the dash. Additionally, there's what Honda describes as a "sail panel" that stretches between the two side chambers at their outermost edge. The overall effect is not unlike a baseball catcher's mitt for a human head. The sail panel slows down the occupants head and draws the side chambers inward to cradle and protect the precious skull.
"This new airbag technology represents Honda's continuing effort to advance safety performance in a wider variety of crash scenarios and reflects the innovative thinking that our engineers are bringing to the challenge of reducing traffic injuries and fatalities," said Jim Keller, President of Honda R&D Americas, Inc.
"Guided by Honda's 'Safety for Everyone' commitment, our engineers recognize that their work on this type of breakthrough safety technology will have far-reaching effects on peoples' lives for many years to come."
The development and testing of the new airbag were led by engineers at Honda R&D Americas in Ohio and in partnership with the Swedish automotive safety supplier Autoliv. It's been reported that once Autoliv's exclusivity deal with Honda has expired, the technology will be made available to other automakers. Given how proud Honda is in extolling its "Safety for Everyone" initiative, we would hope Honda rethinks the exclusivity deal and offers to license the technology to other automakers as soon as possible so everyone has access to it. If this new airbag tech is as important as it appears, Honda could earn a heck of a lot of goodwill by making it available across the board.