Airbags have been a life-saving standard feature for years. But Honda is developing a new approach with Swedish supplier Autoliv.
The new front airbag, devised and tested at Honda's R&D hub in Ohio, protects passengers from a wider range of collisions, including angle crashes with another vehicle or other objects. Honda plans to debut the bag in the U.S. this year but hasn't specified in which nameplate yet.
The new design safeguards against lateral impacts that cause a passenger's head to rotate severely or to slide off of a conventional airbag.
Honda's fix catches the passenger in a sail-like panel that cradles the person during an impact, sort of like a baseball landing in a catcher's mitt. It slows head movement while bracing it from the sides.
The setup uses four major components, unlike typical passenger-side airbags that use one. There is a center chamber, along with two outward-projecting side chambers that create a wide base across the dashboard. Then there is the "sail panel" that stretches between the two side chambers and catches the passenger's head and pulls the side bags inward for extra cushioning.
"With this new system, we can better manage lateral forces that are coming into the airbag system," said Eric Heitkamp, the Honda R&D crashworthiness engineer who led the project. "And we're able to provide a better restraining system from the airbag."
The airbag resulted from research by Honda's engineers into real-world crashes and testing at its advanced safety research center in Raymond, Ohio.