Honda's Ingenious Airbag Is An Official Award Winner

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The three-chamber front passenger airbag is standard equipment in the Acura TLX, MDX, and Honda Pilot.

The US Department of Transportation has honored a Honda Engineer for his work in creating a cutting-edge airbag that has been designed to decrease the risk of serious brain injuries.

At the recent ESV safety conference in Japan, Honda safety engineer Eric Heitkamp was bestowed with the US Government Award for Safety Engineering Excellence. The unique three-chamber front passenger airbag, which is now standard fitment on the Acura TLX, MDX, and Honda Pilot, manages lateral collision forces better than a conventional airbag.

In an accident, these forces can cause a passenger's head to "rotate severely at high velocity and slide off," which has the potential to cause serious injuries to the brain. The safety engineer led the development of the new system by analyzing new research into collision brain injuries.


Honda likens the new airbag to a baseball catcher's mitt. Unlike the single inflatable chamber used in other front passenger airbag systems, the three-chamber setup features an uninflated "sail panel" that first catches and decelerates the passenger's head, all while directing it between two inflated chambers that protect the head from injury.

The airbag is made up of four key components, namely the sail panel and the three inflated compartments comprising two outward-projecting side chambers and a central chamber. These work together to spread across the passenger side of the dashboard, providing a structured and controlled impact with the airbag.

The automaker introduced this technology back in 2021, with the TLX being the first car to receive the system. This isn't the first time Honda has been awarded for excellent design at an ESV conference. In 2019, engineer Sue Bai was recognized for her work in the connected vehicle technology field.

2023 Acura TLX Driving Front Angle Acura
Side View Driving Honda
2022-2023 Acura MDX Driving Back View Acura

The Japanese automaker isn't alone in further developing the life-saving device. CarBuzz recently discovered a patent filed by Toyota that shows the company is working on an airbag design that envelops the occupant's face. While that sounds strange, the setup aims to support the passenger's neck and shoulders, while simultaneously protecting the head and face.

Sadly, when it comes to Honda and airbags, the company has a less-than-desirable reputation. Even though other companies were also involved in the Takata scandal, Honda was affected particularly badly. In July last year, the company said it had fixed or accounted for 90.9% of the faulty inflators in recalled Honda and Acura vehicles in the USA.


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2023 Acura TLX Driving Front Angle
Side View Driving
2022-2023 Acura MDX Driving Back View

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