By on August 26, 2019

Late last week Honda announced its new airbag. Designed to reduce the potential for injuries, especially those encountered in frontal collisions that aren’t perfectly head on, the system is designed to keep vulnerable, human noggins from rolling off and impacting something firm. It’s like a sandwich of safety — where your head is the meat.

Shown to journalists at Honda R&D Americas complex last week, the bags will begin seeing active duty in new models sometime next year. Developed in conjunction with Autoliv, not Takata, the auto manufacturer claims it’s the next level automotive safety.

“This new airbag technology represents Honda’s continuing effort to advance safety performance in a wider variety of crash scenarios and reflects the innovative thinking that our engineers are bringing to the challenge of reducing traffic injuries and fatalities,” said Jim Keller, President of Honda R&D Americas, in a statement. “Guided by Honda’s ‘Safety for Everyone’ commitment, our engineers recognize that their work on this type of breakthrough safety technology will have far-reaching effects on peoples’ lives for many years to come.”

The new airbag utilizes four major components. There are three inflated compartments — a center chamber and two outward-projecting side chambers that create a wide base across the dash — s well as a “sail panel” that stretches between the two side chambers at their outermost edge. Honda used a baseball glove as an analogy, saying the sail panel catches and decelerates the occupant’s head while also engaging the side chambers, pulling them inward to cradle and protect the head like a catcher’s mitt. But referring to the panels as “super-absorbent wings” would also have been an apt metaphor.

Regardless, the theory is the same — make sure the heads/baseballs/drops of blue water end up channeled into the soft bits of the device, instead of being deflected somewhere else. The rest of the bag is focusing on decelerating craniums as gradually as possible to further mitigate head injuries.

Our own Chris Tonn shared some footage of the bag in action at sibling-site AutoGuide, while also noting that there’s currently no accepted standard for brain-specific injuries. The established cranial standard, presently used by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is the Head Injury Criterion (HIC). But Honda is using Brain Injury Criterion (BrIC), which the NHTSA has considered adopting, to verify the airbag’s prowess. Engineer Eric Heitkamp said the system effectively translates to a 75-percent reduction in BrIC — some of which is attributable to slowing head rotation and keeping skulls from slipping off the bag.

“Looking at the real-world data, we can tell that over 56 percent of these real-world crashes have some level of angled impact. I mean, it’s not straight into a wall or to a tree or something,” Heitkamp, told Automotive News in an interview. “So we recognized that we need a restraint system that can improve at the angle-type collisions.”

While we’ve no clue on which models the manufacturer plans on starting with in 2020, odds are good that this airbag will gradually become ubiquitous. Other manufacturers eventually gain access to the bag, as well. But they’ll have to wait for Autoliv’s exclusivity deal with Honda/Acura to expire.

[Images: Honda]

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11 Comments on “Honda’s Got a Brand New (Air)bag...”

  • avatar

    Good to know Takata didn’t make this piece of equipment.

  • avatar

    DETROIT (Reuters) – In August of 2009, after ruptured airbag inflators in Honda vehicles were linked to least four injuries and a death, the automaker quietly requested a design change and did not notify U.S. regulators, Honda confirmed in response to inquiries from Reuters…The request shows that Honda understood the safety risks posed by the inflators long before it started expanding recalls by the millions in 2014, the attorneys and law professors said….The fail-safe modification – outlined in Takata technical documents and internal presentations between 2009 and 2011 and confirmed by Honda – added vents in the inflator to channel pressure from an explosion away from a driver’s neck and torso….Honda is Takata’s biggest customer, and the automaker owns a small stake in the airbag supplier….“You can’t say, ‘It’s a supplier problem, not ours, so we don’t have to talk about it,” he said. “They are responsible for every part on their car and also responsible to report a problem with any part on that car.”…..Six of those deaths and 70 injuries have occurred since Takata began producing the new inflator design for Honda starting in late 2010…Honda officials “made a determination of a defect when they asked for the fail-safe design,” said Kristensen. “They had an obligation to tell the government back in 2009. Good luck defending that.”….

    • 0 avatar

      And Honda’s handling of the Takata situation is what led to them ultimately offering any and every recall customer the option of parking their faulty and dangerous car while waiting for a replacement part, and driving a Honda-paid loaner instead.

      I drove a rental for 6 weeks while my ILX sat in the garage doing nothing, while we all waited for the part to become available. No one knew when that would be; I could have driving that rental for 6 months. No matter; Honda paid the bill.

      Of course, their talk track on all of this was that even M-B didn’t offer such a service for THEIR customers driving Claymore mines around the country while waiting for the part to become available.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    “there’s currently no accepted standard for brain-specific injuries.”

    –Funny this. I recently sat as a juror through a 3 week personal injury case involving alleged brain injury. The plaintiff called “expert” after “expert” who quoted all sorts of research indicating liklihood of brain injury at certain levels of g-force. The defense, of course, cited physics and Law. The plaintiff got nada!

    • 0 avatar

      @R Henry – brain injury in some respects are like back injuries. Overt signs of injury or degeneration aren’t directly related to signs and symptoms. Improvements in diagnostic imaging might improve the correlation.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Were any of these folks from the Veteran’s Administration? I only ask because they now have like 20 years of data on the subject.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    “Other manufacturers eventually gain access to the bag, as well. But they’ll have to wait for Autoliv’s exclusivity deal with Honda/Acura to expire.”

    Methinks Honda could reap a whirlwind of deserved praise if it worked with Autoliv to reasonably license the safety tech to all other manufacturers.

  • avatar

    Good for Honda to do something about it when they saw that there was a problem Wonder why no other automakers thought of that. Thanks, Honda !

    • 0 avatar

      GM had Takata modify their sourced airbags for years now.

      “…GM says the window glass used in the vehicles helps to protect the cabins from high temperatures which in turn helps to keep the inflators cooler. In addition, the airbags allegedly have more venting and special propellant wafers unique to GM vehicles…GM hired a scientific research company called Orbital ATK to test the inflators and in December 2016, the automaker said no Takata airbag inflators had exploded out of 44,000 deployments. In addition, no inflators had ruptured in lab tests of more than 1,000 inflators..  Carcomplaints

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        The same Honda that was trying to get used car buyers to sign waivers of liability when purchasing the Claimore mine by Takata equipped cars?? Yes, thank goodness.

        And look, bad old GM apparently figured it out some time ago.

        What flavor is that Kool-Aid?

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks to dear Honda for our happy childhood!

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