SIDE IMPACT AIR BAGS – THE GENERAL MOTORS APPROACH 2001-06-0221
In 1998, side crashes are estimated to have resulted in 9482 fatalities or approximately 25% of all vehicle fatalities in the United States. Side air bags, which are designed to intersperse themselves between the occupant and the vehicle, are considered to be effective in reducing injuries for both children and adults. To increase side air bag effectiveness they must be carefully engineered to address the potential for causing injury while at the same time provide as much restraint capacity as practicable.
Unlike frontal impact air bags whose designs in the United States are constrained by governmental regulations, side air bags have no such constraints. As a result General Motors had the flexibility to use a fundamentally different approach for the design of its side air bags than what was required for frontal impact air bags. For side air bags General Motor’s approach was first to design systems that minimized the risk of injury to children and lower tolerance adults and then secondly to provide as much protection as practicable for various size occupants in a variety of crash conditions.
To achieve this objective General Motors established a policy of evaluating its side air bags using the standard 3 year old ATD in carefully selected out of position test locations to determine that injury performance criteria were satisfied. As a result, good side impact protection is provided while reducing the potential for producing unintentional injury to vehicle occupants.
Mitchel C. Scherba
International Technical Conference on Enhanced Safety of Vehicles