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Airbag - Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.


An airbag is a type of vehicle safety device and is an occupant restraint
system. The airbag module is designed to inflate extremely rapidly then
quickly deflate during a collision or impact with a surface or a rapid sudden
deceleration. It consists of the airbag cushion, a flexible fabric bag, inflation
module and impact sensor. The purpose of the airbag is to provide the
occupants a soft cushioning and restraint during a crash event to prevent
any impact or impact-caused injuries between the flailing occupant and the
interior of the vehicle. The airbag provides an energy absorbing surface
between the vehicle's occupant and a steering wheel, instrumental panel,
The driver and passenger front
A-B-C- structural body frame pillars, headliner and airbag modules, after having been
windshield/windscreen. deployed, in a Peugeot 306

1 Description
2 Terminology
3 History
3.1 Origins
3.2 As a supplement to seat belts
3.3 As a supplemental restraint system (SRS)
3.3.1 Frontal airbag Shaped airbags
3.3.2 Side airbag Side torso airbag Side tubular or curtain airbag
3.3.3 Knee airbag
3.3.4 Rear curtain airbag
3.3.5 Seat cushion airbag
3.3.6 Center airbag
3.3.7 Seat belt airbag
3.3.8 Pedestrian airbag
3.3.9 Manufactures
3.4 On motorcycles

4 Operation
4.1 Triggering conditions
4.1.1 Inflation Variable-force deployment
4.1.2 Post-deployment

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5 Regulatory specifications
5.1 United States
5.2 Outside the United States

6 Maintenance
7 Limitations
8 Injuries and fatalities
8.1 Airbag fatality statistics
9 Aerospace and military applications
9.1 Spacecraft airbag landing systems
9.2 Aircraft airbag landing systems
9.3 Occupant protection

10 See also
11 References
12 External links

Modern vehicles may contain multiple airbag modules in various configurations including:

Driver airbag module

Passenger airbag module
Side curtain airbag module
Seat-mounted side impact airbag module
Knee bolster airbag module
Inflatable seat-belt modules
Front Right Side Airbag Sensor
Front Left Side Airbag Sensor
Pedestrian airbag module
During a crash event, the vehicle's crash sensor(s) provide crucial information to the airbag electronic controller unit
(ECU), including collision type, angle and severity of impact. Using this information, the airbag electronic controller
unit's crash algorithm determines if the crash event meets the criteria for deployment and triggers various firing
circuits to deploy one or more airbag modules within the vehicle. Working as a supplemental restraint system to the
vehicle's seat-belt systems, airbag module deployments are triggered through a pyrotechnic process that is designed to
be used once. Newer side-impact airbag modules consist of compressed air cylinders that are triggered in the event of a
side on vehicle impact.[1]

The first commercial designs were introduced in passenger automobiles during the 1970s with limited success. Broad
commercial adoption of airbags occurred in many markets during the late 1980s and early 1990s with a driver airbag,
and a front passenger airbag as well on some cars; and many modern vehicles now include six or more units.

Over time, various manufacturers have used different terms for airbags. In the 1970s, General Motors marketed its first

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airbag modules under the unwieldy name "Air Cushion Restraint System (ACRS)". Common terms in North America
refer to a nominal role as a supplement to "active" restraints, i.e. seat belts. Because no action by a vehicle occupant is
required to activate or use the airbag, it is considered a "passive" device. This is in contrast to seat belts, which are
considered "active" devices because the vehicle occupant must act to enable them.[2][3][4][5][6]

This terminology is not related to active and passive safety, which are, respectively, systems designed to prevent
accidents in the first place, and systems designed to minimize the effects of accidents once they occur. In this usage, a
car Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) will qualify as an active-safety device, while both its seatbelts and airbags will
qualify as passive-safety devices. Further terminological confusion can arise from the fact that passive devices and
systemsthose requiring no input or action by the vehicle occupantcan operate independently in an active manner;
an airbag is one such device. Vehicle safety professionals are generally careful in their use of language to avoid this sort
of confusion, though advertising principles sometimes prevent such semantic caution in the consumer marketing of
safety features. Further confusing the terminology, the aviation safety community uses the terms "active" and "passive"
in the opposite sense from the automotive industry.[7]

In patent applications, various airbag manufacturers sometimes use the catchall term 'inflatable occupant restraint
systems' for vehicle airbags.


The airbag specified for automobile use traces its origins to air-filled
bladders as early as 1941.[8][9]

The invention is credited independently to the American John W. Hetrick

who in 1951 registered for the first airbag patent that was granted
#2,649,311 by the United States Patent Office on 18 August 1953.[10][11]
German engineer Walter Linderer who filed German patent #896,312 on 6 1975 Buick Electra with ACRS
October 1951 was issued on 12 November 1953, approximately three
months after American John Hetrick. Hetrick and Linderer's airbags were
both based on a compressed air system, either released by spring, bumper contact or by the driver. Later research
during the 1960s showed that compressed air could not inflate the mechanically based airbags fast enough for
maximum safety, leading to the current chemical and electrically based airbags.[12][13]

Hetrick was an industrial engineer and member of the United States Navy. His airbag was designed based on his
experiences with compressed air from torpedoes during his service in the Navy, combined with a desire to provide
protection for his family in their automobile during accidents. Hetrick worked with the major American automobile
corporations at the time, but they chose not to invest in it.[14][15] Although airbags are now required in every
automobile sold in the United States, Hetrick's 1951 patent filing serves as an example of a "valuable" invention with
little economic value to its inventor because its first commercial use did not occur until after the patent expired when
in 1971, it was installed as an experiment in a few Ford cars.[16]

In Japan, Yasuzaburou Kobori () started developing an airbag "safety net" system in 1964, for which he was
later awarded patents in 14 countries. He died in 1975 without seeing widespread adoption of airbag systems.[17][18][19]

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In 1967, a breakthrough occurred in the development of airbag crash sensors, when Allen K. Breed invented a
mechanically-based ball-in-tube component for crash detection, an electromechanical sensor with a steel ball attached
to a tube by a magnet that would inflate an airbag in under 30 milliseconds.[20] A small explosion of sodium azide
instead of compressed air was used for the first time during inflation.[13] Breed Corporation then marketed this
innovation first to Chrysler. A similar "Auto-Ceptor" crash-restraint, developed by the Eaton, Yale & Towne company
for Ford was soon offered as an automatic safety system in the United States,[21][22] while the Italian Eaton-Livia
company offered a variant with localized air cushions.[23]

In the early 1970s, Ford and General Motors began offering cars equipped with airbags, initially in government fleet
purchased Chevrolet automobiles. GM's Oldsmobile Toronado was the first domestic vehicle to include a passenger
airbag. The automaker discontinued the option for its 1977 model year, citing lack of consumer interest. Ford and GM
then spent years lobbying against air-bag requirements, claiming that the devices were unfeasible and inappropriate.
Chrysler made a driver-side airbag standard on 19881989 models, but it was not until the early 1990s that airbags
became widespread in American cars.[24]

As a supplement to seat belts

Airbags for passenger cars were introduced in the United States in the mid-1970s, when seat belt usage rates in the
country were quite low. Ford built an experimental fleet of cars with airbags in 1971, followed by General Motors in
1973 on Chevrolet vehicles. The early fleet of experimental GM vehicles equipped with airbags experienced seven
fatalities, one of which was later suspected to have been caused by the airbag.[25]

In 1974, GM made its "Air Cushion Restraint System" (ACRS) available as a regular production option (RPO code AR3)
in full-size Cadillacs,[26] Buick and Oldsmobile models. The GM cars from the 1970s equipped with ACRS had a driver-
side airbag, a driver-side knee restraint[27] (which consists of a padded lower dashboard), and a passenger-side airbag.
The passenger-side airbag protects both front passengers[27] and unlike most newer ones, it integrated a knee cushion
and a torso cushion, and it also had dual stage deployment which varied depending on the force of the impact. The cars
equipped with ACRS had lap belts for all seating positions but they did not have shoulder belts. Shoulder belts were
already mandatory equipment in the United States on closed cars without airbags for the driver and outer front
passenger seating positions, but GM chose to market its airbags as a substitute for shoulder belts. Prices for this option
on Cadillac models were USD$225 in 1974, USD$300 in 1975, and USD$340 in 1976.

The early development of airbags coincided with an international interest in automobile safety legislation. Some safety
experts advocated a performance-based occupant protection standard rather than a standard mandating a particular
technical solution, which could rapidly become outdated and might not be a cost-effective approach. Nevertheless, as
countries successively mandated seat belt restraints, there was less emphasis placed on other designs for several

As a supplemental restraint system (SRS)

Frontal airbag
The auto industry and research and regulatory communities have moved away from their initial view of the airbag as a
seat belt replacement, and the bags are now nominally designated as Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) or
Supplemental Inflatable Restraints.

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In 1981, Mercedes-Benz introduced

Three photos of a crash test dummy whose head lands right into the airbag.
the airbag in West Germany as an
option on its flagship saloon model,
S-Class (W126). In the Mercedes system, the sensors would automatically pre-tension the seat belts to reduce
occupant's motion on impact (now a common feature), and then deploy the airbag on impact. This integrated the seat
belts and airbag into a restraint system, rather than the airbag being considered an alternative to the seat belt.

In 1987, the Porsche 944 Turbo became the first car to have driver and passenger airbags as standard equipment. The
less powerful Porsche 944 and 944S had this as an available option. The same year also saw the first airbag in a
Japanese car, the Honda Legend.[28]

In 1988, Chrysler was the first United States company to install standard driver's side air bags.[29] They came in six
lines of its high volume production passenger cars.[30] The following year, Chrysler became the first United States auto
manufacturer to install driver-side air bags in all its domestic-built automobiles.[31] All versions of the Chrysler
minivans came with airbags starting January 1991.[29] In 1992, the Jeep Grand Cherokee became the first SUV with
airbags in the market place.[32] Driver and passenger air bags became standard equipment in all Dodge Intrepid, Eagle
Vision, and Chrysler Concorde sedans ahead of any regulations.[33] Early 1993 saw the 4-millionth air bag-equipped
Chrysler vehicle roll off the assembly line.[34] In October 1993, the Dodge Rams became the first pickup trucks with

The first known accident between two airbag-equipped automobiles took place in 1990 in Virginia, USA. A 1989
Chrysler LeBaron crossed the center line and hit another 1989 Chrysler LeBaron in a head-on collision, causing both
driver airbags to deploy. The drivers suffered only minor injuries despite extensive damage to the vehicles.[36][37][38]

The United States Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 required passenger cars and light trucks
built after 1 September 1998 to have air bags for the driver and the right front passenger.[39][40] In the United States,
NHTSA estimated that air bags had saved over 4,600 lives by 1 September 1999; however, the crash deployment
experience of the early 1990s installations indicated that some fatalities and serious injuries were in fact caused by air
bags.[39] In 1998, NHTSA initiated new rules for advanced air bags that gave automakers more flexibility in devising
effective technological solutions. The revised rules also required improved protection for occupants of different sizes
regardless of whether they use seat belts, while minimizing the risk to infants, children, and other occupants caused by
air bags.[39]

In Europe, airbags were almost entirely absent from mainstream cars until the early 1990s. By 1991, four
manufacturers - BMW, Honda, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo - offered the air bag on some of their higher-end models, but
shortly afterwards, airbags became a common feature on more mainstream cars.

The first European Ford to feature an airbag was the facelifted Escort Mark V in 1992; within a year, the entire Ford
range had at least one airbag as standard. By the mid-1990s, European market leaders such as Vauxhall/Opel, Rover,
PSA Peugeot Citron, Renault and Fiat had included airbags as at least optional equipment across their model ranges.
By 1999, it was very rare to find a new mass market car without at least one airbag, and some late 1990s products, such
as the Volkswagen Golf Mk4, also featured side airbags. The Peugeot 306 is one example of the European automotive
mass-market evolution: starting in early 1993, most of these models did not even offer a driver's airbag as an option,
but by 1999, even side airbags were available on several variants. On the other hand, Audi was late to offer airbag
systems on a broader scale, since even in the 1994 model year its popular models did not offer airbags. Instead, the
German automaker until then relied solely on its proprietary cable-based procon-ten restraint system.

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From around the year 2000, side-impact airbags became commonplace on even low- to mid-range vehicles, such as the
smaller-engined versions of the Ford Fiesta and Peugeot 206, and curtain airbags were also becoming regular features
on mass-market cars. The Toyota Avensis, launched in 2003, was the first mass-market car to be sold in Europe with
nine airbags.

Variable force deployment front airbags were developed to help minimize injury from the airbag itself.

Shaped airbags
The Citron C4 provided the first "shaped" driver airbag, made possible by this car's unusual fixed hub steering

Side airbag
There are essentially two types of side airbags commonly used today: the
side torso airbag and the side curtain airbag.

Most vehicles equipped with side curtain airbags also include side torso
airbags. However, some, such as the Chevrolet Cobalt,[42] 2007-09 model
Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra, and 2009-12 Dodge Ram[43] do not
feature the side torso airbag.

Side torso airbag Side airbag inflated permanently for

Side-impact airbags or side torso airbags (side thorax/abdomen airbags) display purposes
are a category of airbag usually located in the seat[44] or door panel,[45] and
inflate between the seat occupant and the door. These airbags are designed
to reduce the risk of injury to the pelvic and lower abdomen regions.[46]
Most vehicles are now being equipped with different types of designs, to
help reduce injury and ejection from the vehicle in rollover crashes. More
recent side airbag designs[47] include a two chamber system;[48] a firmer
lower chamber for the pelvic region and softer upper chamber for the

The Swedish company Autoliv AB, was granted a patent on side impact Deployed curtain airbag and side
airbags, and they were first offered as an option in 1994[51] on the 1995 torso airbag in a Citron C4.
model year Volvo 850, and as standard equipment on all Volvo cars made
after 1995.[51]

Some cars, such as the 2010 Volkswagen Polo Mk.5 have combined head and torso side airbags. These are fitted in the
backrest of the front seats, and protect the head as well as the torso.

Side tubular or curtain airbag

In 1997, the BMW 7 Series and smaller 5 Series were fitted with a tubular shaped head side airbags (Inflatable
Tubular Structure (ITS)),[52] the "Head Protection System (HPS)" as standard equipment.[53] This airbag was
designed to offer head protection in side impact collisions and also maintained inflation for up to seven seconds for
rollover protection. However, this tubular shaped airbag design has been quickly replaced by an inflatable 'curtain'

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In May 1998, Toyota began offering a side curtain airbag deploying from
the roof on the Progrs.[54] In 1998 the Volvo S80 was given roof-mounted
curtain airbags to protect both front and rear passengers.[55] Curtain
airbags were then made standard equipment on all new Volvo cars from
2000 except for the first generation C70 which received an enlarged side
torso airbag that also protects the head of front seat occupants.[51] The
second generation C70 convertible received the world's first door-mounted
side-curtain airbags that deployed upwards. Deployed curtain airbag in an Opel

Roll-sensing side curtain airbags found on vehicles more prone to rollovers Vectra
such as SUVs and pickups will deploy when a rollover is detected instead of
just when an actual collision takes place. Often there is a switch to disable
the feature in case the driver wants to take the vehicle offroad.

Curtain airbags have been said to reduce brain injury or fatalities by up to 45% in a side impact with an SUV. These
airbags come in various forms (e.g., tubular, curtain, door-mounted) depending on the needs of the application.[56]
Many recent SUVs and MPVs have a long inflatable curtain airbag that protects all 3 rows of seats.

Knee airbag
The second driver's side and separate knee airbag was used in the Kia Sportage (a Korean SUV launched in 1995) and
has been standard equipment since then. The airbag is located beneath the steering wheel.[57][58]

The Toyota Caldina introduced the first Driver-side SRS knee airbag on the
Japanese market in 2002.[59] Toyota Avensis became the first vehicle sold
in Europe equipped with a driver's knee airbag.[60][61] The EuroNCAP
reported on the 2003 Avensis, "There has been much effort to protect the
driver's knees and legs and a knee airbag worked well."[62] Since then
certain models have also included front passenger knee airbags, which
deploy near or over the glove compartment in a crash. Knee airbags are
designed to reduce leg injury. The knee airbag has become increasingly
Deployed passenger knee airbag in
common from 2000.
a Toyota Tundra after a frontal
collision test, the driver side knee
Rear curtain airbag airbag also deployed. Blue and
yellow markings indicate the
In 2008, the new Toyota iQ microcar featured the first production rear
dummy's knees.
curtain shield airbag to protect the rear occupants' heads in the event of a
rear end impact.[63]

Seat cushion airbag

Another feature of the Toyota iQ was a seat cushion airbag in the passenger seat. This is to prevent the pelvis from
diving below the lap belt during a frontal impact or submarining.[64] Later Toyota models such as the Yaris added the
feature to the driver's seat as well.

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Center airbag
In 2009, Toyota developed the first production rear-seat center airbag
designed to reduce the severity of secondary injuries to rear passengers in a
side collision. This system deploys from the rear center seat first appearing
in on the redesigned Crown Majesta.[65] In late 2012 General Motors with
supplier Takata introduced a front center airbag, it deploys from the
driver's seat.[66]

The 2013 GM Traverse, Acadia, and Enclave will be the first vehicles to use
a center airbag for center passengers in the front row. Front-center airbag of a Chevrolet
Traverse deployed in an static out-
of-position test. The purpose of the
Seat belt airbag test was to find out how this airbag
affects a 3 year old child who is out
The seat belt airbag is designed to better distribute the forces experienced
of his seat and in the direct reach of
by a buckled person in a crash by means of increased seat belt area. This is
the airbag.
done to reduce possible injuries to the rib cage or chest of the belt wearer.

2009: Mercedes ESF 2009 Experimental Safety Vehicle had seat belt airbags
2010: Lexus LFA[67] had seat belt airbags for driver and passenger[68]
2011: Ford Explorer[69] and 2013 Ford Flex: optional rear seat belt airbags;
standard on the 2013 Lincoln MKT
2013: Mercedes-Benz S-Class (W222) has rear seat beltbags[70]
2014: Ford Mondeo Mk V[71] has optional rear seat belt airbags for the two
outer seats[72]
Cessna Aircraft[73] also introduced seat belt airbags.[74] They are as of 2003[74]
standard on the 172, 182, and 206.

Pedestrian airbag
Airbag(s) mounted to the exterior of vehicles, so called pedestrian airbags, are Seat belt airbag
designed to reduce injuries in the event of a vehicle to pedestrian collision.[75] When
a collision is detected the airbag will deploy and cover hard areas, such as
a-pillars[76] and bonnet edges, before they can be struck by the pedestrian.[77] When introduced in 2012 the Volvo V40
included the world's first pedestrian airbag as standard.[78] As a result, the V40 ranked highest (88%) in the
EuroNCAP's pedestrian tests.[79] The 2014 Land Rover Discovery was fitted with a pedestrian airbag as well.[76][80]

SRS airbag suppliers include Autoliv, Daicel, Takata , TRW and KSS, formerly Breed, one of the pioneers in the field.

On motorcycles
Various types of airbags were tested on motorcycles by the UK Transport Research Laboratory in the mid-1970s. In
2006 Honda introduced the first production motorcycle airbag safety system on its Gold Wing motorcycle. Honda
claims that sensors in the front forks can detect a severe frontal collision and decide when to deploy the airbag,
absorbing some of the forward energy of the rider and reducing the velocity at which the rider may be thrown from the

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Airbag suits have also been developed for use by Motorcycle Grand Prix
riders. In their earlier form, they were connected to the motorcycle by a
cable and deployed when the cable became detached from its mounting
clip, inflating to protect the back of the rider. The French manufacturer
Helite specializes exclusively in developing airbag jackets for motorcyclists,
snowmobile riders and horseback riders.[82] Further developments were
conducted by Dainese and led to an autonomous system on board the
leathers, without a cable connected to the bike. Instead, an electronic
system detects a fall and triggers the inflation of the nitrogen airbags to
Airbag on a motorcycle
protect the rider's upper body.[83][84]

The airbags in the vehicle are controlled by a central Airbag control unit[85]
(ACU), a specific type of ECU. The ACU monitors a number of related
sensors within the vehicle, including accelerometers, impact sensors, side
(door) pressure sensors,[86][87] wheel speed sensors, gyroscopes, brake
pressure sensors, and seat occupancy sensors. The bag itself and its
inflation mechanism is concealed within the steering wheel boss (for the
driver), or the dashboard (for the front passenger), behind plastic flaps or
doors which are designed to "tear open" under the force of the bag inflating.
An ACU from a Geo Storm.
Once the requisite 'threshold' has been reached or exceeded, the airbag
control unit will trigger the ignition of a gas generator propellant to rapidly
inflate a fabric bag. As the vehicle occupant collides with and squeezes the bag, the gas escapes in a controlled manner
through small vent holes. The airbag's volume and the size of the vents in the bag are tailored to each vehicle type, to
spread out the deceleration of (and thus force experienced by) the occupant over time and over the occupant's body,
compared to a seat belt alone.

The signals from the various sensors are fed into the Airbag control unit, which determines from them the angle of
impact, the severity, or force of the crash, along with other variables. Depending on the result of these calculations, the
ACU may also deploy various additional restraint devices, such as seat belt pre-tensioners, and/or airbags (including
frontal bags for driver and front passenger, along with seat-mounted side bags, and "curtain" airbags which cover the
side glass). Each restraint device is typically activated with one or more pyrotechnic devices, commonly called an
initiator or electric match. The electric match, which consists of an electrical conductor wrapped in a combustible
material, activates with a current pulse between 1 and 3 amperes in less than 2 milliseconds. When the conductor
becomes hot enough, it ignites the combustible material, which initiates the gas generator. In a seat belt pre-tensioner,
this hot gas is used to drive a piston that pulls the slack out of the seat belt. In an airbag, the initiator is used to ignite
solid propellant inside the airbag inflator. The burning propellant generates inert gas which rapidly inflates the airbag
in approximately 20 to 30 milliseconds. An airbag must inflate quickly in order to be fully inflated by the time the
forward-traveling occupant reaches its outer surface. Typically, the decision to deploy an airbag in a frontal crash is
made within 15 to 30 milliseconds after the onset of the crash, and both the driver and passenger airbags are fully
inflated within approximately 60-80 milliseconds after the first moment of vehicle contact. If an airbag deploys too late
or too slowly, the risk of occupant injury from contact with the inflating airbag may increase. Since more distance
typically exists between the passenger and the instrument panel, the passenger airbag is larger and requires more gas
to fill it.

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Older airbag systems contained a mixture of sodium azide (NaN3), KNO3, and SiO2. A typical driver-side airbag
contains approximately 50-80 g of NaN3, with the larger passenger-side airbag containing about 250 g. Within about
40 milliseconds of impact, all these components react in three separate reactions that produce nitrogen gas. The
reactions, in order, are as follows.

(1) 2 NaN3 2 Na + 3 N2 (g)

(2) 10 Na + 2 KNO3 K2O + 5 Na2O + N2 (g)

(3) K2O + Na2O + 2 SiO2 K2SiO3 + Na2SiO3 (silicate glass)

The first reaction is the decomposition of NaN3 under high temperature conditions using an electric impulse. This
impulse generates to 300 C temperatures required for the decomposition of the NaN3 which produces Na metal and
N2 gas. Since Na metal is highly reactive, the KNO3 and SiO2 react and remove it, in turn producing more N2 gas. The
second reaction shows just that. The reason that KNO3 is used rather than something like NaNO3 is because it is less
hygroscopic. It is very important that the materials used in this reaction are not hygroscopic because absorbed
moisture can de-sensitize the system and cause the reaction to fail. The final reaction is used to eliminate the K2O and
Na2O produced in the previous reactions because the first-period metal oxides are highly reactive. These products
react with SiO2 to produce a silicate glass which is a harmless and stable compound.

According to a patent,[88] the particle size of the sodium azide, potassium nitrate, and silicon dioxide are important.
The NaN3 and KNO3 must be between 10 and 20 m, while the SiO2 must be between 5 and 10 m.

There are ongoing efforts to find alternative compounds that can be used in airbags which have less toxic
byproducts.[89] In a journal article by Akiyoshi et. Al., it was found that for the reaction of the Sr complex nitrate,
(Sr(NH2NHCONHNH2)(NO3)2 of carbohydrazide (SrCDH) with various oxidizing agents resulted in the evolution of
N2 and CO2 gases. Using KBrO3 as the oxidizing agent resulted in the most vigorous reaction as well as the lowest
initial temperature of reaction. The N2 and CO2 gases evolved made up 99% of all gases evolved. Nearly all the starting
materials wont decompose until reaching temperatures of 500 C or higher so this could be a viable option as an air
bag gas generator. In a patent containing another plausible alternative to NaN3 driven airbags, the gas generating
materials involved the use of guanidine nitrate, 5-aminotetrazole, bitetrazole dehydrate, nitroimidazole, and basic
copper nitrate. It was found that these non-azide reagents allowed for a less toxic, lower combustion temperature
reaction and more easily disposable air bag inflation system.

Front airbags normally do not protect the occupants during side, rear, or rollover accidents.[90] Since airbags deploy
only once and deflate quickly after the initial impact, they will not be beneficial during a subsequent collision. Safety
belts help reduce the risk of injury in many types of crashes. They help to properly position occupants to maximize the
airbag's benefits and they help restrain occupants during the initial and any following collisions.

In vehicles equipped with a rollover sensing system, accelerometers and gyroscopes are used to sense the onset of a
rollover event. If a rollover event is determined to be imminent, side-curtain airbags are deployed to help protect the
occupant from contact with the side of the vehicle interior, and also to help prevent occupant ejection as the vehicle
rolls over.

Triggering conditions
Airbags are designed to deploy in frontal and near-frontal collisions more severe than a threshold defined by the
regulations governing vehicle construction in whatever particular market the vehicle is intended for: United States

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regulations require deployment in crashes at least equivalent in

deceleration to a 23 km/h (14 mph) barrier collision, or similarly, striking a
parked car of similar size across the full front of each vehicle at about twice
the speed.[91] International regulations are performance based, rather than
technology-based, so airbag deployment threshold is a function of overall
vehicle design.

Unlike crash tests into barriers, real-world crashes typically occur at angles
other than directly into the front of the vehicle, and the crash forces usually Some cars provide the option to turn
are not evenly distributed across the front of the vehicle. Consequently, the off airbags.
relative speed between a striking and struck vehicle required to deploy the
airbag in a real-world crash can be much higher than an equivalent barrier
crash. Because airbag sensors measure deceleration, vehicle speed is not a good indicator of whether an airbag should
have deployed. Airbags can deploy due to the vehicle's undercarriage striking a low object protruding above the
roadway due to the resulting deceleration.

The airbag sensor is a MEMS accelerometer, which is a small integrated circuit with integrated micro mechanical
elements. The microscopic mechanical element moves in response to rapid deceleration, and this motion causes a
change in capacitance, which is detected by the electronics on the chip that then sends a signal to fire the airbag. The
most common MEMS accelerometer in use is the ADXL-50 by Analog Devices, but there are other MEMS
manufacturers as well.

Initial attempts using mercury switches did not work well. Before MEMS, the primary system used to deploy airbags
was called a "rolamite". A rolamite is a mechanical device, consisting of a roller suspended within a tensioned band. As
a result of the particular geometry and material properties used, the roller is free to translate with little friction or
hysteresis. This device was developed at Sandia National Laboratories. The rolamite, and similar macro-mechanical
devices were used in airbags until the mid-1990s when they were universally replaced with MEMS.

Nearly all airbags are designed to automatically deploy in the event of a vehicle fire when temperatures reach
150-200 C (300-400 F).[92] This safety feature, often termed auto-ignition, helps to ensure that such temperatures do
not cause an explosion of the entire airbag module.

Today, airbag triggering algorithms are becoming much more complex. They try to reduce unnecessary deployments
and to adapt the deployment speed to the crash conditions. The algorithms are considered valuable intellectual
property. Experimental algorithms may take into account such factors as the weight of the occupant, the seat location,
seatbelt use, and even attempt to determine if a baby seat is present.

When the frontal airbags are to deploy, a signal is sent to the inflator unit within the airbag control unit. An igniter
starts a rapid chemical reaction generating primarily nitrogen gas (N2) to fill the airbag making it deploy through the
module cover. Some airbag technologies use compressed nitrogen or argon gas with a pyrotechnic operated valve
("hybrid gas generator"), while other technologies use various energetic propellants. Although propellants containing
the highly toxic sodium azide (NaN3) were common in early inflator designs, little to no toxic sodium azide has been
found on used airbags.

The azide-containing pyrotechnic gas generators contain a substantial amount of the propellant. The driver-side airbag

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would contain a canister containing about 50 grams of sodium azide. The passenger side container holds about
200 grams of sodium azide.[93]

The alternative propellants may incorporate, for example, a combination of nitroguanidine, phase-stabilized
ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) or other nonmetallic oxidizer, and a nitrogen-rich fuel different from azide (e.g.
tetrazoles, triazoles, and their salts). The burn rate modifiers in the mixture may be an alkaline metal nitrate (NO3-) or
nitrite (NO2-), dicyanamide or its salts, sodium borohydride (NaBH4), etc. The coolants and slag formers may be e.g.
clay, silica, alumina, glass, etc.[94] Other alternatives are e.g. nitrocellulose based propellants (which have high gas yield
but bad storage stability, and their oxygen balance requires secondary oxidation of the reaction products to avoid
buildup of carbon monoxide), or high-oxygen nitrogen-free organic compounds with inorganic oxidizers (e.g., di or
tricarboxylic acids with chlorates (ClO3-) or perchlorates (ClO4-) and eventually metallic oxides; the nitrogen-free
formulation avoids formation of toxic nitrogen oxides).

From the onset of the crash, the entire deployment and inflation process is about 0.04 seconds. Because vehicles
change speed so quickly in a crash, airbags must inflate rapidly to reduce the risk of the occupant hitting the vehicle's

Variable-force deployment
Advanced airbag technologies are being developed to tailor airbag deployment to the severity of the crash, the size and
posture of the vehicle occupant, belt usage, and how close that person is to the actual airbag. Many of these systems use
multi-stage inflators that deploy less forcefully in stages in moderate crashes than in very severe crashes. Occupant
sensing devices let the airbag control unit know if someone is occupying a seat adjacent to an airbag, the mass/weight
of the person, whether a seat belt or child restraint is being used, and whether the person is forward in the seat and
close to the airbag. Based on this information and crash severity information, the airbag is deployed at either at a high
force level, a less forceful level, or not at all.

Adaptive airbag systems may utilize multi-stage airbags to adjust the pressure within the airbag. The greater the
pressure within the airbag, the more force the airbag will exert on the occupants as they come in contact with it. These
adjustments allow the system to deploy the airbag with a moderate force for most collisions; reserving the maximum
force airbag only for the severest of collisions. Additional sensors to determine the location, weight or relative size of
the occupants may also be used. Information regarding the occupants and the severity of the crash are used by the
airbag control unit, to determine whether airbags should be suppressed or deployed, and if so, at various output levels.

A chemical reaction produces a burst of nitrogen to inflate the bag. Once an
airbag deploys, deflation begins immediately as the gas escapes through
vent(s) in the fabric (or, as it's sometimes called, the cushion) and cools.
Deployment is frequently accompanied by the release of dust-like particles,
and gases in the vehicle's interior (called effluent). Most of this dust
consists of cornstarch, french chalk, or talcum powder, which are used to
lubricate the airbag during deployment.

Newer designs produce effluent primarily consisting of harmless talcum Post-deployment view of a SEAT
powder/cornstarch and nitrogen gas. In older designs using an azide-based Ibiza airbag

propellant (usually NaN3), varying amounts of sodium hydroxide nearly

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always are initially present. In small amounts this chemical can cause minor irritation to the eyes and/or open wounds;
however, with exposure to air, it quickly turns into sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). However, this transformation is
not 100% complete, and invariably leaves residual amounts of hydroxide ion from NaOH. Depending on the type of
airbag system, potassium chloride may also be present.

For most people, the only effect the dust may produce is some minor irritation of the throat and eyes. Generally, minor
irritations only occur when the occupant remains in the vehicle for many minutes with the windows closed and no
ventilation. However, some people with asthma may develop a potentially lethal asthmatic attack from inhaling the

Because of the airbag exit flap design of the steering wheel boss and dashboard panel, these items are not designed to
be recoverable if an airbag deploys, meaning that they have to be replaced if the vehicle has not been written off in an
accident. Moreover, the dust-like particles and gases can cause irreparable cosmetic damage to the dashboard and
upholstery, meaning that minor collisions which result in the deployment of airbags can be costly accidents, even if
there are no injuries and there is only minor damage to the vehicle structure.

Regulatory specifications

United States
On 11 July 1984, the United States government amended Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208 (FMVSS 208) to
require cars produced after 1 April 1989 to be equipped with a passive restraint for the driver. An airbag or a seat belt
would meet the requirements of the standard. Airbag introduction was stimulated by the National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration.[95] However, airbags were not mandatory on light trucks until 1997.[96]

In 1998, FMVSS 208 was amended to require dual front airbags, and reduced-power, second-generation airbags were
also mandated. This was due to the injuries caused by first-generation airbags, though FMVSS 208 continues to
require that bags be engineered and calibrated to be able to "save" the life of an unbelted 50th-percentile size and
weight "male" crash test dummy. Technical performance and validation requirements for the inflator assembly used in
airbag modules are specified in SAE USCAR 24-2.[97]

Outside the United States

Some countries outside North America adhere to internationalized European ECE vehicle and equipment regulations
rather than the United States Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. ECE airbags are generally smaller and inflate
less forcefully than United States airbags, because the ECE specifications are based on belted crash test dummies. In
the United Kingdom, and most other developed countries there is no direct legal requirement for new cars to feature
airbags. Instead, the Euro NCAP vehicle safety rating encourages manufacturers to take a comprehensive approach to
occupant safety; a good rating can only be achieved by combining airbags with other safety features.[98] Thus almost all
new cars now come with at least two airbags as standard.

Inadvertent airbag deployment while the vehicle is being serviced can result in severe injury, and an improperly
installed or defective airbag unit may not operate or perform as intended. Some countries impose restrictions on the
sale, transport, handling, and service of airbags and system components. In Germany, airbags are regulated as harmful

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explosives; only mechanics with special training are allowed to service airbag systems.

Some automakers (such as Mercedes-Benz) call for the replacement of undeployed airbags after a certain period of
time to ensure their reliability in an accident. One example is the 1992 S500, which has an expiry date sticker attached
to the door pillar. Some koda vehicles indicate an expiry date of 14 years from the date of manufacture. In this case,
replacement would be uneconomic as the car would have negligible value at 14 years old, far less than the cost of fitting
new airbags. Volvo, on the other hand, has stated "airbags do not require replacement during the lifetime of the
vehicle," though this cannot be taken as a guarantee on the device.[99]

Although the millions of installed airbags in use have an excellent safety
record, there are some limitations on their ability to protect car occupants.

The original implementation of front airbags did little to protect against

side collisions, which can be more dangerous than frontal collisions
because the protective crumple zone in front of the passenger compartment
is completely bypassed. Side airbags and protective airbag curtains are
increasingly being required in modern vehicles to protect against this very Crash test of an underride guard at
common category of collisions. 3040 km/h (1925 mph); the truck
platform at head height has been
Airbags are designed to deploy once only, and are ineffective if there are prevented from impacting the
any further collisions after an initial impact. Multiple impacts may occur windshield

during certain rollover accidents or other incidents involving multiple

collisions, such as many multi-vehicle collisions.[100]

An extremely dangerous situation occurs during "underride collisions", in which a passenger vehicle collides with the
rear of a tractor-trailer lacking a rear underride guard, or hits the side of such a trailer not equipped with a side
underride guard.[101] The platform bed of a typical trailer is approximately at the head height of a seated adult
occupant of a typical passenger car. This means that there may not be much between a head and the edge of the trailer
platform, except a glass windshield.[102] In an underride collision, the car's crush zones designed to absorb collision
energy are completely bypassed, and the airbags may not deploy in time because the car does not decelerate
appreciably until the windshield and roof pillars have already impacted the trailer bed.[100] Even delayed inflation of
airbags may be useless because of major intrusion into the passenger space, leaving occupants at high risk of major
head trauma or decapitation in even low speed collisions. Western European standards for underride guards have been
stricter than North American standards, which typically have allowed grandfathering of older equipment that may still
be on the road for decades.[101][103]

Typical airbag systems are completely disabled by turning off the ignition key. Unexpected turnoffs usually also disable
the engine, power steering, and power brakes, and may be the direct cause of an accident. If a violent collision occurs,
the disabled airbags will not deploy to protect vehicle occupants. In 2014, General Motors admitted to concealing
information about fatal accidents caused by defective ignition switches which would abruptly shut down a car
(including its airbags). Between 13 and 74 deaths have been directly attributed to this defect, depending on how the
fatalities are classified.[104]

Injuries and fatalities

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Under some rare conditions, airbags can injure and in some very rare
instances kill vehicle occupants. To provide crash protection for occupants
not wearing seat belts, United States airbag designs trigger much more forcefully than airbags designed to the
international ECE standards used in most other countries. Recent "smart" airbag controllers can recognize if a seatbelt
is used, and alter the airbag cushion deployment parameters accordingly.[105]

In 1990, the first automotive fatality attributed to an airbag was reported.[106] TRW produced the first gas-inflated
airbag in 1994, with sensors and low-inflation-force bags becoming common soon afterwards. Dual-depth (also known
as dual-stage) airbags appeared on passenger cars in 1998. By 2005, deaths related to airbags had declined, with no
adult deaths and two child deaths attributed to airbags that year. However, injuries remain fairly common in accidents
with an airbag deployment.

Serious injuries are less common, but severe or fatal injuries can occur to vehicle occupants very near an airbag or in
direct contact when it deploys. Such injuries may be sustained by unconscious drivers slumped over the steering wheel,
unrestrained or improperly restrained occupants who slide forward in the seat during pre-crash braking, and properly
belted drivers sitting very close to the steering wheel. A good reason for the driver not to cross hands over the steering
wheel, a rule taught to most learner drivers but quickly forgotten by most, is that an airbag deployment while
negotiating a turn may result in the driver's hand(s) being driven forcefully into his or her face, exacerbating any
injuries from the airbag alone.

Improvements in sensing and gas generator technology have allowed the development of third generation airbag
systems that can adjust their deployment parameters to size, weight, position and restraint status of the occupant.
These improvements have demonstrated a reduced injury risk factor for small adults and children, who had an
increased risk of injury with first generation airbag systems.[107]

One model of airbags made by the Takata Corporation used ammonium nitrate-based gas generating compositions in
airbag inflators instead of the more stable, but more expensive compound Tetrazole. The ammonium nitrate-based
inflators have a flaw where old inflators with long-term exposure to hot and humid climate conditions could rupture
during deployment, projecting metal shards though the airbag and into the driver.[108] The defect caused seven deaths
and over 100 injuries in the U.S., and one death in Malaysia.[109] The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
recalled over 33 million vehicles in May 2015,[110] and fined Takata $70 million in November 2015.[111] Toyota, Mazda
and Honda have said that they will not use ammonium nitrate inflators.[112][113]

Airbag fatality statistics

From 1990 to 2000, the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration identified 175 fatalities caused
by air bags. Most of these (104) have been children, while the rest were adults. About 3.3 million air bag deployments
have occurred during that interval, and the agency estimates more than 6,377 lives saved and countless injuries

A rear-facing infant restraint put in the front seat of a vehicle places an infant's head close to the airbag, which can
cause severe head injuries, or death if the airbag deploys. Some modern cars include a switch to disable the front
passenger airbag, in case a child-supporting seat is used there (although not in Australia, where rear-facing child seats
are prohibited in the front where an airbag is fitted).

In vehicles with side airbags, it is dangerous for occupants to lean against the windows, doors, and pillars, or to place
objects between themselves and the side of the vehicle. Articles hung from a vehicle's clothes hanger hooks can be

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hazardous if the vehicle's side curtain airbags deploy.[115] A seat-mounted airbag may also cause internal injury if the
occupant leans against the door.[116][117]

Starting in 2013, Japan's Takata corporation was involved in the recall of millions of airbag inflators that could inflate
with too much pressure, sending shards of the metal inflator case in to the body of the driver or passenger, sometimes
resulting in death.

Aerospace and military applications

The aerospace industry and the United States government have applied airbag technologies for many years. NASA, and
United States Department of Defense have incorporated airbag systems in various aircraft and spacecraft applications
as early as the 1960s.

Spacecraft airbag landing systems

The first use of airbags for landing were Luna 9 and Luna 13, which landed
on the Moon in 1966 and returned panoramic images. As with later
missions, these would use the airbags to bounce along the surface,
absorbing landing energy. The Mars Pathfinder lander employed an
innovative airbag landing system, supplemented with aerobraking,
parachute, and solid rocket landing thrusters. This prototype successfully
tested the concept, and the two Mars Exploration Rover Mission landers

NASA engineers test the Mars employed similar landing systems. The Beagle 2 Mars lander also tried to
Pathfinder airbag landing system on use airbags for landing, the landing was successful and the lander touched
simulated Martian terrain down safely, but several of the spacecraft's solar panels failed to deploy,
thereby disabling the spacecraft.

Aircraft airbag landing systems

Airbags have also been used on military fixed wing aircraft, such as the Escape Crew Capsule of the F-111 Aardvark.

Occupant protection
The United States Army has incorporated airbags in its UH-60A/L[118][119]
Black Hawk and OH-58D Kiowa Warrior[120] helicopter fleets. The Cockpit
Air Bag System (CABS)[121] consists of forward and lateral airbags, and an
inflatable tubular structure (on the OH-58D only) with an Electronic Crash
Sensor Unit (ECSU). The CABS system was developed by the United States
Army Aviation Applied Technology Directorate, through a contract with
Simula Safety Systems (now BAE Systems).[122] It is the first conventional
airbag system for occupant injury prevention (worldwide) designed and
OH-58D CABS test
developed and placed in service for an aircraft, and the first specifically for
helicopter applications.[123][124]

See also

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Airbag dermatitis
Airplane airbags
Automobile safety
Precrash system
Safety standards

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External links
Chemistry behind airbags (
Pictures and details about the 1970s GM Air Cushion Restraint System (
The Promise of the Air Bag (, looks at the history of air
bags and how the technology gave rise to today's "smart cars."

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