Volvo Debuts Pedestrian Airbag – Can We Have Attractive Car Design Now?
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.
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.
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.
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.
This pedestrian air bag is not a concept, it is being incorporated into the Volvo V40.