The new airbag design will fix the biggest problem with modern automotive crash testing and make cars vastly safer.
Did you know that occupants of a car seldom have their seatbelts in the correct position as they are when tested by crash safety authorities? Due to gravity, poor posture, and the vibration of a car, the lap belt rides up above the pelvis of a passenger within a few miles. While this might not seem like a problem, in the event of a crash, smaller occupants can easily slip underneath the belt in what is termed 'submarining.' Even those that don't slide all the way through can suffer, as the belt tightening over the soft stomach can cause internal organ damage at speeds as low as 30 mph, meaning your car isn't as safe as testing authorities claim.
Well, according to patents filed with the USPTO discovered by CarBuzz, Hyundai and Kia have found a way to fix this problem, making cars safer than ever with a new seat-mounted airbag for… your crotch. Before you laugh, this strange-sounding concept could save lives.
While other manufacturers have tried metal framework to prevent submarining, and some have used knee and side-mounted seat airbags to curtail the effects, these only minimize the damage done rather than eradicate it in its entirety.
For Kia and Hyundai, however, the answer lies in an airbag that deploys from the seat base between your thighs, locking you in place in the event of an accident so you can't slide forward in the seat of your Hyundai Palisade.
The two key elements here are the airbag's shape and the load-sensing technology, which make it possible to work.
Instead of a simple weight-detection mat in the seat - your typical occupant erection mechanism - paired with a variable deployment-intensity airbag, this new system measures where exactly the occupant is located on the seat base.
Based on the occupant's hip position, weight distribution, and location in the seat, the airbag then deploys at a variable rate, providing the greatest stability for the passenger or driver. If the system detects the occupant is not in a suitable position - or is in a position where airbag deployment could do more damage - it can decide not to deploy the airbag at all. This comes in handy when a child seat is installed, or perhaps you have something heavy in the passenger seat that might trigger a traditional sensor into thinking someone is sitting there.
As for the airbag itself, it's arranged in a T-shape, with a slim inflatable support section that rises out of the seat cushion's front edge and a linked inflatable horizontal bar on top, held in position by a fabric tether at each end.
The upright support section will ensure that the occupant is held securely in position, the horizontal section deploys over the occupant's thighs to ensure that they remain restrained on the seat, and the tethers will inhibit sideways movement of the occupant's legs, further reducing the risk of injury.
We're sure that nobody whose legs, hips, or bodily organs get saved by these airbags will laugh at the weird-looking design, no matter how strange it might look at first glance. However, it is nice to see this Korean giant think outside the usual cushion, with a strong possibility that we'll see this type of airbag design employed in Kia, Hyundai, and Genesis-branded vehicles in the very near future.
Now, all we have to wonder is what Hyundai might call these protective testicular-oriented wonders... T-Bags, perhaps?