GM Patents Exterior Airbag; Pop-Up Headlights Set for Triumphant Return?

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy
Resident internet sleuth Bozi Tatarevic has unearthed an interesting patent granted to General Motors last week. Described as a “ Fender Located Pedestrian Airbag,” it is intended to provide protection to a pedestrian hit by the front area of a vehicle.Given that pedestrian safety standards are often cited as the reason for the pop-up headlamp’s demise, one can only assume that the units are poised for a glorious comeback on the next Corvette. No? Damn.The 28-page filing shows a myriad of ways the exterior airbag could help protect a pedestrian in a collision, from popping out of the a-pillar and covering the windshield to being released from a fender flap in order to inflate and cover the wiper arms and other poky bits.
Referring to a number of the patent illustrations, a number of variations on this theme would see a pedestrian protection airbag module located in the fender region, laterally adjacent and below a vehicle’s hood but ahead of the driver’s door. Other examples describe an airbag deploying above the grille without lifting up the hood.One would think there’s a myriad of engineering issues to overcome with this concept, not the least of which are the extreme conditions these units will face being housed outside the passenger cabin. Sure, the airbags inside a car are often subjected to extreme heat and cold, but units outside the car will also have to contend with road hazards and rigors of a daily commute.The patent does address the issue of the deployment door sticking after being exposed to foul weather conditions. It goes on to talk about water diversion systems to keep the expensive electronics dry and in good working order. Sounds potentially like an awful lot of Rube Goldberg parts, then.
Still, it is an interesting concept. A line in the patent document goes on to say that a “discrete deployment door” could be integrated into a window trim ring or – HERE IT IS – integrated into the headlamp area as part of the lamp or surrounding trim.I know pop-ups aren’t making a return, even if some of the designs shown in this patent do make it into production vehicles.[Images: General Motors, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office]
Matthew Guy
Matthew Guy

Matthew buys, sells, fixes, & races cars. As a human index of auto & auction knowledge, he is fond of making money and offering loud opinions.

More by Matthew Guy

Join the conversation
2 of 16 comments
  • Prado Prado on Dec 12, 2017

    Pedestrian safety standards ..... do they exist in North America? I was under the impression that they did not, but with so many cars being 'international' cars, we end up getting stuck with the ugly design ramifications regardless.

  • JohnTaurus JohnTaurus on Dec 13, 2017

    I'm here to go on record as saying I hate pop-up headlights. The 3rd gen Accord, for example, looks so much better in the fixed-headlight European spec. (For those that haven't seen it, its very similar to the 88-91 Civic.) The only car I thought looked good with hidden headlights was the first gen Mercury Cougar. The rest, be they pop-up variety or otherwise, no thanks. The car looks blank with them hidden (like a person walking around with their eyes closed), and odd/awkward with them exposed. The car just never looks "right" to me. To each, their own.

  • Lou_BC I was looking at an extended warranty for my truck. The F&I guy was trying to sell me on the idea by telling me how his wife's Cadillac had 2 infotainment failures costing $4,600 dollars each and how it was very common in all of their products. These idiots can't build a reliable vehicle and they want me to trust them with the vehicle "taking over" for me.
  • Sobhuza Trooper Like fusion power, the I.D. Buzz is only 30 years away.
  • Lou_BC "respondents between 18 and 80 years old" Basically anyone deemed an adult who might be allowed to drive.
  • Lou_BC They will do fine if they come up with some cool sedans ;)
  • Mister They've got their work cut out for them. I live in a large metropolitan city of 1.2+ million people, the is a single Mitsubishi dealer. It's really more like a used-car dealer that sells Mitsubishi on the side. With the remarkably cheesy name of "Johnny Legends".