1998-02-23

Driving Factors and Future Developments of Airbag Technology 980556

Airbag systems have undergone an unbelievable success story during the past years. The story really began in 1969 when the US Federal Government first proposed that all cars be equipped with inflatable restraints. It took nearly 20 years to get the market break-through and in the year 2000 one expects a market volume of round about 70 million airbag units worldwide. Challenges have not only been set to the developers and engineers but also to policy makers, marketing experts, biomedical scientists and the consumer associations before the real success story could happen.Today the smart car occupant protection system is again one step before another quantum jump. Cost, efficiency and performance drive nearly all car manufacturers and their system supplier towards new frontiers of airbag technology.Implications of the current systems like the risk of fatal injuries, danger to children and the ‘out-of-position’ problem challenge again engineers and scientists. The gas generator technology has reached a technological level which allows solutions for a smart, tailorable system configuration. Occupant protection is not only based on it, as it could only be a part - a supplementary part - of the whole protection management. On the other hand, gas generator technology provides a full range of other application, from fire extinguishing systems to the opening and closing of separation devices. Gas generators of the future will be inexpensive, easy to handle, non-toxic and tailorable to specific applications.Airbag system configuration has to be adapted to different requirements, e. g. to avoid that the ‘helping hand’ becomes unintentionally dangerous to the person who has to be helped. Future systems will be less aggressive and tailored to specific crash scenarios. But all overall airbag technology improvements in cars occupant protection. This contribution will highlighting some of the trends and ideas at the turn of the century.

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