New Hyundai airbag keeps front passengers from injuring each other during a crash

The number of airbags Hyundai packs into its cars will increase in the coming years. The South Korean company has designed an airbag that fills the space separating the front occupants to prevent them from slamming into each other during a crash.

While we’re increasingly surrounded by airbags, Hyundai’s research showed the front occupants of a car often injure each other after an impact. The company’s middle airbag deploys from the driver’s seat, according to Autoblog, and it covers the torso as well as the head. It’s bigger than the airbag nestled in your steering wheel, so tethers ensure it stays in the shape it’s supposed to be in when it deploys.

The middle airbag reduces the odds of suffering a head injury by 80 percent, Hyundai noted. It will prevent the driver’s head from slamming into the passenger’s shoulder, for example. It makes a car safer even if there’s no passenger, because it gives the driver something soft to crash into during an accident.

As of 2019, there is not a single car available on the market that’s equipped with a middle airbag. That will change in the coming years; Hyundai is committed to offering the feature on some of its models as it looks for ways to continue making safer cars. The company will begin rolling out the middle airbag in 2020, though it hasn’t revealed which model(s) it will be available on, or whether it will be standard or optional. We expect to see it on bigger models like the Palisade first. Odds are cars manufactured by sister company Kia will benefit from this technology, too, because the two firms share a tremendous amount of technology.

Many cars already offer side airbags, including several made by Hyundai and Kia, but the carmaker said that bringing the middle airbag to production is more difficult than duplicating existing technology. The tether unit that helps the device maintain its shape had to be carefully studied to ensure designers can continue to experiment with different seat designs. Similarly, engineers managed to shave about a pound from the device by carefully choosing the materials used.

The middle airbag will make Hyundai cars safer, but you won’t have to take the company’s word for it. It expects the feature will help it score high marks when the Euro New Car Assessment Programme — the agency that issues safety ratings in Europe — inaugurates new, stricter standards in 2020.

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