Ask anybody that’s ever had an airbag go off on them (such as yours truly), and one of the first things they will tell you is that the sensation of the device deploying is opposite of what the name implies. Airbag? A better name would be “sucker punch sack.” But hey, at least they keep us from breaking our necks on the steering wheel. And it seems General Motors has been busy with airbag innovations lately, with the debut of a center-mounted, vertical trajectory airbag in its 2013 Lambda (read: Chevy Traverse, Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia) crossovers. Most recently, the company announced a new style of driver side airbag for the 2013 Chevrolet Cruze.
The new airbag utilizes a flexible venting technology designed to deploy more efficiently while providing equivalent crash protection compared to more expensive and complex air bag systems, according to GM.
To prove it, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tested the 2013 Cruze with the new airbag technology under its New Car Assessment Program. The result was the NHTSA’s maximum 5-Star Overall Vehicle Score, the same rating it received in 2011 and 2012 when the small car used a more complex dual-stage airbag system.
With a dual-stage airbag setup, there is one inflator for low-speed crashes and another for high-speed crashes. But the Cruze’s new single-stage “smart air bag” uses one lower output inflator to manage both low-speed and high-speed crashes. The more compact, lighter weight system’s flexible vent reduces the risk of inflation-induced injury by allowing the driver’s forward momentum to effectively push the air out and away. Like an intense pillow fight. Hopefully nobody has to be in a situation where it’s needed, though it’s good to know the system exists.