By on May 2, 2017

718 boxster S

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. 

porsche a-pillar airbag patent

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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4 Comments on “Porsche’s A-pillar Airbag Patent Could Prevent Serious Headaches for Convertible Owners...”

  • avatar
    Jeff Semenak

    At this point, we need the technology from, Demolition Man.
    We need “SecureFoam”.

  • avatar

    As if a-pillars aren’t already thick enough…… They should move/derake the windshield forwards, then make it tall enough that buffeting is still contained.

    Then, place the airbag in the space gained on the dashboard around the a-pillar. An upward firing corner-curtain airbag, so to speak. Heck, they could even look into firing rigid rollover supports behind the corner-curtain….. Probably a lot easier said on the internet than actually done, but then again patents really don’t do much good when issued for trivialities.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

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