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Honda’s New Airbag Will Be Better for Side Collisions

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Honda is developing a new airbag that will work better than the current standard airbag design when your car is involved in a collision that isn’t head-on, which the automaker says is the case in 56 percent of impacts.

Because more than half of collisions involve your car connecting with something at an angle, it’s likely that your head will bounce off the existing airbag and then hit something else. To help remedy this problem, Honda’s new airbag — developed with Swedish supplier Autoliv — uses three inflated compartments designed to secure your head like a ball in a catcher’s mitt.

“We can better manage lateral forces that are coming into the airbag system. And we’re able to provide a better restraining system from the airbag,” said Honda engineer Eric Heitkamp, who added that the project took four years to get to this point after Honda R&D approached Autoliv with the challenge.

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The airbag features a central “sail panel” that sits above the recessed center compartment and stretches between two taller outer compartments to help catch and slow down your head. Honda has been testing it using what it calls a pitching sled crash simulator it built in 2002, which uses a 550,000-horsepower piston powered by nitrogen gas to hit the test rig.

During a media demonstration, Honda showed a violent 33 g impact simulating a 40 mph collision, stating that its new airbag will eventually be able to reduce the incidence of rotation-induced brain damage by 75 percent for the driver-side.

However, the airbag has currently only been developed for the front passenger side, and won’t enter production until next year. Once it does, it will be available exclusively in Honda vehicles for six months, after which Autoliv will be able to market it to other manufacturers.

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