By on March 9, 2012

Volvo’s Pedestrian Airbag Technology isn’t as fun as the Jiffy Pop Airbag, but it’s an interesting concept nonetheless. Pyrotechnic hoods that pop-up during an impact are nothing new, but where Volvo adds value is through the use of an airbag that pops up from a cavity at the base of the windshield.

Pedestrian safety laws are most famous for changing the face of car design, mandating ugly, inelegant front ends that are wide, low and blunt. Pedestrian injuries are gruesome and horrific (as anyone who has ever seen someone get hit by a car can attest), so the cause is a noble one. But there’s no doubt that automotive design has sacrificed much to be in compliance with these regulations. Is there a chance that these airbags can help bring back the glory days of styling? Probably not. Check out the video below for a demonstration.

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54 Comments on “Volvo Debuts Pedestrian Airbag – Can We Have Attractive Car Design Now?...”


  • avatar
    geo

    Struck pedestrians like to be litigious. I think an airbag could make it even worse for the driver.

  • avatar

    How is this airbag goign to distinguish between a ped and an object? If it doesn’t, cars are going to get totaled with still less damage because it costs so much to replace airbags.

  • avatar
    cmoibenlepro

    So if I ever get a very small impact that would have only scratched the bumper (let say I hit a concrete block in a parking), then the whole hood will pop out, and a huge airbag will come out?
    So instead of a small paint job, I will have to pay thousands to replace the hood and the airbag?

    This is crazy.
    Why not mandating that pedestrians stay at home instead?

    • 0 avatar
      asapuntz

      > Why not mandating that pedestrians stay at home instead?

      We laugh at those early 20th century laws that required that a car be restricted to walking-pace as they coexisted with the human & horse traffic that filled streets. We’ve gotten rid of the horses and trained the remaining pedestrians, but they still have to coexist, and a significant part of the costs and responsibilities fall on drivers. Economics and technology have shifted, so it’s no longer the wealthy car owner who pays for a both a driver and man to walk before the car. Instead, a broad segment pays for impact protection technology, through purchase, insurance, and repair costs. Aesthetics too, I guess.

      Freedom of movement is usually viewed as a birthright. Driving a car, not so much, especially outside of the USA.

      • 0 avatar
        cmoibenlepro

        “Why not mandating that pedestrians stay at home instead?”

        That was sarcasm.

      • 0 avatar
        charly

        Those “cars” were locomotives on steel wheels without brakes. We only laugh now because our impression of an early car is a lightweight horseless carriage but if you ever see a wheeled locomotive you would think of it as proof that that time was much less judical

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      Of course, just like how, currently, a tiny bumper-scratch in a parking lot causes your steering wheel airbag to deploy into your face and knock you unconscious.

      Or, alternatively, we have more sophisticated sensors than you propose.

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      Hitting a concrete block at a few miles per hour does not create only a scratch

  • avatar
    Dan

    Many times more likely to be used on a deer than on a jaywalker.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    I hereby declare personal responsibility to be officially dead. My safety is now completely in the hands of others – phew! What a relief!

    Is anybody else annoyed by the utter and complete lack of self-concern displayed by many pedestrians (esp. in store parking lots) these days? People are about to walk directly across the path of a 4800lb SUV and don’t even bother to turn their head or (heaven forbid) make eye contact with the driver to see if they are going to stop or not. Seriously? Are we that stupid now?

    The automakers love airbags as they result in more cars being totalled (and thus unrepaired), resulting in more new car sales. The car I am driving now was totalled due to both front airbags deploying, in a front-end accident so minor that all I did was to replace the grille, one headlight (and the other one just because it was cloudy), and radiator. But the $4K for a body shop to fix the airbags put the damage total over the value of the car.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      My comment was going to very similar to this one. I see nearly suicidal pedestrians everyday. The “I’m going to walk in front of a 5,000 SUV because I’m a pedestrian, and that means I always have the ‘right-of-way’” types. It’s very seldom that I see a pedestrian who even looks up from his/her phone before crossing in front of a car.

      We need to get rid of the idea that pedestrians always have the right of way and that it will always be the driver’s fault if an accident occurs. You can pay as much attention as you want to your surroundings, but if somebody is going to step out in front of you physics will get in the way of a clean stop.

      • 0 avatar
        tankinbeans

        Grr. The edit function isn’t working.

        Before somebody accuses me of thinking that I never make mistakes I will say that I do, indeed, make mistakes. That being said, I try to pay as much attention as possible when driving through parking lots and around cross-walks, but it is also incumbent upon the pedestrian to know that I’m there.

        As my parents always tell me expect that everybody elses’ heads are in the clouds and act accordingly.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      I’ve posted this comment before, and I’ll do it again: if pedestrians will stay off the roads, I won’t drive on the sidewalks.

      You’ve nailed it, redmondjp, by citing personal responsibility. Anything that happens today is somebody else’s fault, and the nanny state is promoting it with ridiculous standards. The Euros are in advanced decline with their hyper-nannyism and are pushing “pedestrian safety” to ludicrous levels.

      Car companies are going along to get their cars approved for sale in Europe, and the “world car” concept means everybody is stuck with the results. I’m in favor of letting Europe go it’s own way and car makers writing off the continent. Then the rest of the world can have stylish cars and leave the Euros to their expensive, odd-duck vehicles. They’ll probably be putting bumpers on bicycles next.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    This is not a noble cause. If you are stupid enough to walk out in front of a moving car, you deserve the Darwin Award that you will likely get. And hopefully it happens before you have a chance to breed.

    How about 12″ spikes on the front of the car instead?

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      Yeah, and if you’re stupid enough to walk on the same sidewalk that some drunken idiot is driving down, you deserve… wait a minute.

      I do find it interesting how when we’re discussing driver/passenger safety systems, the comments all rant about how the collision is the driver’s fault, but when we’re discussing safety systems that benefit the people outside the car, the collision is never the driver’s fault.

    • 0 avatar
      sitting@home

      On Christmas Eve last year, a woman on her cell phone in a BMW turned into me and missed by inches while I crossed a road on a green man. I had to leap out of her way, the woman behind in a CRV was screaming because she thought I was a goner, and the BMW driver continued on oblivious (or unconcerned).

      I think a twelve inch spike in place of the driver’s airbag would do a lot more to keep drivers’ attention. Hopefully laws will soon be passed making all BMWs, Mercedes and Toyotas automated driving only as these appear to be the majority of types of cars where the drivers seem to have problems staying in their lanes and following simple traffic rules, signs and signals.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo2

      “If you are stupid enough to walk out in front of a moving car, you deserve the Darwin Award that you will likely get.”

      A few months ago I saw an old lady run a stop sign and hit a baby, in a baby carriage, in a crosswalk. She came to a stop with the carriage half jammed under the front bumper.

      Yesterday, I’m walking across the street, at a crosswalk, I think I make eye contact with the driver (who I notice is having a rather animated conversation on her phone) but I think she sees me and she appears to be slowing down. But, apparently not, she guns it and I had to literally jump up and slide halfway across her hood.

      The fact of the matter is, many drivers just aren’t paying attention, at all. And, with the graying population, it’s only going to get worse.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Ultimately YOUR safety is YOUR responsibility. You cannont trust that the idiot behind the wheel sees you when you step out into traffic. I spend a fair amount of time walking around cities in my work travels, and the amount of brain-dead walking I see actually surpasses the amount of brain-dead driving. It does not matter if the light was green, the walk sign was on, or you think you made eye-contact with the yahoo behind the wheel. Physics means that YOU are the one who will suffer in the encounter.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    A week or so, the B&B were debating the cost/benefit ratio of a mandated back-up camera in SUVs, and the general conclusion seemed to be that it was not that expensive and addressed a known problem.

    And, if pedestrian safety has resulted in more blunt and less attractive car front ends, I’m not going to whine about it (even though, in 45 years of living in urban/suburban environments, I have yet to manage to hit a pedestrian.

    But this sounds to me like excess . . . a very expensive feature which is extremely unlikely to be used over the life of the vehicle. And, for that matter, I’m also not a fan of Volvo’s pedestrian safety automatic braking devices, or even these radar warning systems that are being touted. There is some demonstrable evidence that people rely on some of these “safety enhancements” of their cars to drive more recklessly than they would otherwise; and I would expect this pedestrian braking system would be especially inviting: Just stand on it through a congested urban environment; if someone gets in the way, the car will save them!

    It’s probably churlish of me to also note that cars with the hood hinged at the front are much more difficult to work on, than those with the hood hinged at the back . . . unless one can open the hood close to 90 degrees.

    • 0 avatar
      A Caving Ape

      Working on your car yourself!? How unsafe! Just think of the liability! Dealer service techs are the only ones who should be concerned with which way the hood opens. Ideally the hood latch would be electronically locked and only opened by special dealer service software. Now come to your senses, keep quiet, and open your wallet.

  • avatar
    Darkhorse

    This will be mandated in Obama’s second term.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Volvo comes out with a 100% optional technology to save lives and the almost universal response is to check the skies for UN black helicopters.

    TTAC used to be about cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Darkhorse

      The UN helicopters aren’t black. They’re blue, and they follow me everywhere I go in my 1939 Traction Avant.

    • 0 avatar
      JCraig

      My thoughts too Sherborn. Volvo, a company that has pushed safety innovation for decades, develops yet another system and people are up in arms as if the government mandated it.

      And someone correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Europe responsible for these pedestrian friendlier blunt noses? Obama will inevitably get the blame.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    The money spent to develop this could have been spent elsewhere, especially for a brand that could end up like Saab, considering the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. Swedish, fwd, premium cars with a luxury price tag.

    And as said above, pedestrians that get hit are very litigious. With this Volvo, I would have to run them over twice over.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      The risk of ending up like Saab is exactly why Volvo needs to develop additional safety systems. Safety is a big part of Volvo’s brand identity, except right now I don’t see anything to differentiate them from other luxury brands. They need safety systems to set themselves apart again, or they could find themselves in trouble.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Fail. As others have said, it’s more likely to be triggered by a deer.

    Besides, how well will this work when the hood and wiper area are covered in snow and ice?

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    in the future, cars will be so damn expensive because of all this crap, that we will only have pedestrians anyway!

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    I’m not a fan, especially with the concern that the air bag will ignite for parking lot and minor rear end collisions. Hopefully this never gets past being an option on luxury cars, because I have no interest in paying thousands to save some moron that runs out in front of my car.

    Pedestrian right-of-way is drilled into everyone who takes a driver’s education course, and the message spreads to non-drivers as well. The obvious point is for drivers to exercise additional caution in areas where pedestrians are expected to cross streets. This is more than fair. Unfortunately, people twist pedestrian right-of-way to mean that they can step out into traffic at any time – regardless of lights, walk signals, or the presence of a cross walk – and expect traffic to stop regardless of current speed or available space. Even with cross walks, people don’t account for things like visibility and weather. Cross in front of traffic wearing dark clothes, at night and in the rain? Why not? I have a cross walk and therefore the right-of-way!

    Maybe pedestrians can just stop stepping out into traffic. Just a thought.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    From the looks of the video, the bags might prevent some head damage to a ped, but do nothing for the broken bones, cuts and contusions that would be caused by the impact. It hardly seems worth the expense for the good that it would do.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      A head injury is far more likely to cause a fatality.

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      The next step (there’s always a next step!) will be to have bags deploy in front of the grill/bumper for the rest of the body and from each corner of the car to guard against glancing blows. This will minimize injuries until they perfect the 100% foam-clad nerfmobile.

      • 0 avatar
        JCraig

        Or they could explosively blast spray foam onto the pedestrian mid-air so that they land nicely padded and safe. The foam could deteriorate rapidly so as not to suffocate them, similar to how airbags deflate rapidly.

      • 0 avatar
        SevenIM

        When someone gets hit by a car, they are usually thrown forward instead of being pulled up over the hood, so the more logical next step is to install airbags in the streets at 8 or 10 foot intervals, followed by airbags installed on signs, lampposts and fire hydrants.

      • 0 avatar
        Rick T.

        Seven IM:

        Just had a vision of a human pinball caroming up the street with bells ringing and street lights flashing! Thanks!

  • avatar
    jeoff

    They are called “accidents” for a reason, and even if some of you are as infallible as some of your posts imply, many other folks are not, some of us make poor decisions (drinking and driving, driving distracted etc.), some of us even make mistakes when trying to follow the rules and common sense. Not every idea is a winner, but research into minimizing the effects of life’s accidents is a good thing.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      I bumped a pedestrian once while just sitting in traffic. She might have only suffered a bruised knee, but I’ve never forgotten how ashamed I felt at the time.

      My father’s driving advice included this: “You can hit another car, a house, a tree, or a fence, but you never, ever hit a person.”

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    redmondjp . . . . You nailed what I was about to write.

    I am far less exasperated when the pedestrian who just walked out in front of me and forced me to use my brakes has at least made eye contact before stepping out. I cannot even begin to imagine why so many pedestrians blithely step out in to a traffic lane without even looking.

    Ironic that pedestrian collision standards originated in Europe. In my experience driving in Europe (well Germany anyway), many, many pedestrians crossed in front of me, but I never had to so much as back off of the throttle. They looked and took time and distance into account.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Why not make helmets mandatory for pedestrians as well as bikers?

  • avatar
    jkross22

    If cars were invented today, they would never be mass produced. We’ve become infants in the eyes of the nanny state.

  • avatar
    crackers

    In the Toronto area where I live, car/pedestrian accidents have skyrocketed lately. One of the causes of this increase in accidents are people who are wearing ear buds and listening to music while they walk. When I was a kid, I was taught Stop, Look and Listen before crossing a road. Does anyone think they will ban the use of music players while walking? More likely, there will be continued pressure on car manufacturers

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      You’re absolutely right! Down here in the Lower 48 we need Ray LaHood to ban earbudding while walking!

      And brilliant idea given above requiring all pedestrians to wear helmets. That would cut down on the head injuries not only from car accidents but from tripping and falling down, walking into clear glass doors, turning around and walking into a light pole, etc. Think of the savings to the public, less ER visits, fewer people in comas for decades on the public nickel, and so on.

      It’s not fair that the car has to have all of the safety equipment on it; we should employ a balanced approach to safety instead.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    I’ve seen a few close calls involving pedestrians and cars because the pedestrians were distracted by talking or texting and not paying attention to their surroundings.

  • avatar
    DAC17

    Who does the cost/benefit analysis on this type of thing? I cannot believe that there is much to be saved in terms of lives or injury costs by this airbag. The legal system will bankrupt the world (in unforeseen ways) before it’s over.

  • avatar
    nvdw

    Derek,

    Volvo’s new airbag itself will do nothing about what you perceive as deformed car design to comply with pedestrian safety standards. The main issue is to create a ‘crumple zone’ between the hood and the engine parts. The airbag is there to prevent the pedestrian (or biker) to hit the front pillars or the lower corners of the windscreen.

    DAC17,

    The benefit of this system is that a pedestrian is more likely to survive when hit by a car with this technology. That is the main point. The cost of a death or a crippling injury to society might even be higher.

    Please note that I agree with Volvo’s rationale behind this, ie that we don’t need to be killed for our mistakes in road traffic.

    And even then, this airbag can only do so much. The impact on a human from being hit by a car is tremendous. You can ‘soften the blow’ as much as you want by redesigning the front end of a car – it’s the thud on the tarmac that is the killer. Your chances of survival when being hit at what looks like a low speed are very small for that reason. For children, the chances of survival are even less. Those observations come from a Volvo engineer, not me.

    This Australian road safety film (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Z23CzSONiU) is a very graphic representation of what happens when you hit a pedestrian with an impact speed of 20 mph. It is really that nasty.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    Common sense is the best safety device. Hard to teach, though, especially to the kids my sons age (19). They have grown up with an entitlement mind set that for better or worse seems to be ingrained in most pedestrians. I have found that this transfers to his driving style, so maybe its just me and my 50′s upbringing. The only constant is change.

  • avatar
    danwat1234

    This pedestrian air bag is not a concept, it is being incorporated into the Volvo V40.


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