Porsche's A-pillar Airbag Patent Could Prevent Serious Headaches for Convertible Owners

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
porsche s a pillar airbag patent could prevent serious headaches for convertible

A segment of the automotive enthusiast community holds a real prejudice against convertibles. While the majority of the ire stems from an irrational bitterness or assumption that any car that sacrifices any amount body stiffness for style is inherently wrong, there is one valid complaint: most convertibles are less safe in a crash than a hardtop.

With that in mind, Porsche has patented an airbag concealed within the A-pillar specifically designed to protect soft-top occupants in the event that the windshield frame bends toward their fragile skulls during an accident — a handy feature for a vehicle lacking roof support. However, there is no reason the system couldn’t also be implemented in vehicles with a rigid ceiling.

In the patent diagrams, originally spotted by Motor1, Porsche has the device occupying the entire length of the pillar. The airbag would expand and protect passengers upper body as they move forward during a collision. With convertibles’ tendency to deform in that specific area in a crash, a large airbag would be of additional value.

This sort of safety feature would also be especially welcome in a small overlap impact, where the majority of force is focused on the front corner of a vehicle. Tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety routinely show that this type of crash can send the head on a trajectory that misses the steering wheel airbag. While side-curtain bags mitigate some of the risk, those aren’t an option on a convertible and test dummies occasionally careen into A-pillars in cars equipped with sill-mounted inflation devices.

Obviously, keeping the cabin from deforming is the best way to ensure occupant safety, but an additional airbag could be the difference between life and death for those who prefer to feel the wind in their hair.

[Image: Porsche]

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  • Slap Slap on May 03, 2017

    Are fixed roof cars safer than convertibles? In some cases, yes, and in others, not any safer. I used to ride motorcycles. A combination of getting older, and drivers less attentive convinced me to go to a roadster.

  • Wheatridger Wheatridger on May 03, 2017

    This certifiable Good Idea might deliver a terminal face punch to some of us. I tend to sit tall in a car. The last convertible I sat in was a VW Beetle. Even with the seat at lowest position, my eyes were close to windshield level. Raising the seat, I could see over the windshield, making it a mere "windscreen," like on a Morgan. My first car was a convertible, a "Cabriolet," in fact. But it's upright, Pininfarina styling allowed an large, upright windshield, with great visibility and headroom. Those days are no more,sadly.

  • MRF 95 T-Bird Back when the Corolla consisted of a wide range of body styles. This wagon, both four door and two door sedans, a shooting brake like three door hatch as well as a sports coupe hatchback. All of which were on the popular cars on the road where I resided.
  • Wjtinfwb Jeez... I've got 3 Ford's and have been a defender due to my overall good experiences but this is getting hard to defend. Thinking the product durability testing that used to take months to rack up 100k miles or more is being replaced with computer simulations that just aren't causing these real-world issues to pop up. More time at the proving ground please...
  • Wjtinfwb Looks like Mazda put more effort into sprucing up a moribund product than Chevy did with the soon to be euthanized '24 Camaro.
  • Wjtinfwb I've seen worse on the highways around Atlanta, usually with a refrigerator or washer wedged into the trunk and secured with recycled twine...
  • Wjtinfwb Surprising EB Flex hasn't weighed in yet on it being the subject of a recall...