General Motors today announced the front center airbag, an industry-first safety feature designed to protect drivers and front passengers in far-side impact crashes — where the affected occupant is on the opposite, non-struck side of the vehicle.
The front center airbag deploys from the right side of the driver’s seat and occupies the space between the front seats near the center of the vehicle. The tethered, tubular airbag protects a vehicle’s front occupants during two different scenarios. The first involves passenger-side crashes where the driver is the only occupant while the second encompasses both driver- and passenger-side crashes where both front seats are occupied. In the latter case, the airbag acts as an energy-absorbing cushion between the driver and front passenger.
The airbag, which was co-developed by General Motors and technology supplier Takata over the course of three years, is not required by federal regulations. It will make its debut on 2013 model-year Lambda-based full-size crossovers including the Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia, and Chevy Traverse. For the 2012 model year, the crossovers received five-star Overall and Side Crash safety ratings from NHTSA’s New Car Assessment Program; the 2011s were named Top Safety Picks from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
According to the NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System database, far-side impact crashes accounted for 11 percent of the belted front occupant fatalities in non-rollover impacts between 2004 and 2009 involving 1999 model year and newer vehicles. These far-side fatalities are also responsible for 29 percent of all belted front occupant fatalities in side impacts.
The GM Authority Take
Now that’s what we call a sound R&D expenditure. Being the less-exciting and less-visible aspect of a vehicle, safety often takes a back seat among automotive enthusiast circles. But as those who have been in at least one accident know all too well, it’s crucial and shouldn’t be taken lightly. As such, it’s important to give credit where credit is due and commend The General for introducing a feature that is bound to save lives. We expect this feature to propagate to other GM vehicles over the next several years and hope other automakers follow suit in due time.
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