Airbags are made to protect the passengers inside vehicles. However, General Motors believes they can work equally as well on the exterior of vehicles to save pedestrians during crashes.
GM received a patent of its airbag on the outside of a vehicle that is designed to provide pedestrians protection, the most recent addition in an effort by the industry to address a problem that is continuing to grow that represents close to one in seven traffic deaths in the U.S.
A spokesperson for GM said that the pedestrian airbag could be an important solution for the future.
Other automakers have been working on their own ideas for passenger protection. Daimler, which is the owner of Mercedes Benz, has its own patent of how to install airbags within the framework at the sides of the vehicle’s windshield in order to cushion the possible blow to a pedestrian. Germany based Volkswagen has been exploring airbag uses as well.
On the new V40 model, Volvo used a pedestrian airbag. The Volvo technology has a different approach than does that of GM, seeking to cushion the area of the windshield.
The initial impact by a vehicle is not what is most apt to kill a pedestrian, but the secondary impact when the pedestrian passes over the vehicle’s hood and their heads hit the heavy frame that holds the vehicle’s windshield, said an analyst with an automotive product consultant agency.
In 2015, pedestrians killed by cars reached 5,376 in the U.S., which was 15% of all traffic fatalities for the year. In addition, 818 bicyclists lost their lives in auto accidents.
The number of pedestrians who were killed that year in traffic jumped 11% to over 6,000 during 2016, showed a report released in March of 2017. It was the largest ever increase from one year to the next in pedestrian fatalities.
Extensive paperwork was filed by GM at the U.S. Patent Trademark Office including hundreds of pages of optional applications, descriptions and 90 sketches. GM’s focus is mounting an airbag in the regions of the fender adjacent to the hood and prior to the side door to give protection to pedestrians from hitting the vehicle’s frontal area.
No information was released by GM about how possible collisions would be detected by the airbag in order to trigger its deployment.