General Motors will be offering the industry’s first front center air bag in select vehicles. This inflatable restraint will help to protect drivers and front passengers in far-side impact crashes where the affected occupant is on the opposite, non-struck side of the vehicle.
You’re going to have to wait a bit for the new front center air bag – it will be introduced on the 2013 Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia, and Chevrolet Traverse midsize crossovers (it will come standard on Acadia and Traverse with power seats and all Enclaves).
Here’s how it works: found in between the front row seats near the center of the vehicle, the tethered, tubular air bag deploys from the right side of the driver’s seat. It protects the driver when they are the only occupant in the event of a passenger-side crash. When there is a driver and a front passenger, it acts as energy absorbing cushion in both driver- and passenger-side crashes. As well, it will offer protection if your vehicle is involved in a rollover accident.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System database, far-side impact crashes account 11 percent of the belted front occupant fatalities in non-rollover impacts between 2004 and 2009 involving 1999 model year or newer vehicles. The stats go on to show that in these far-side fatalities, where the occupant is on the non-struck side of the vehicle, also represent 29 percent of all the belted front occupant fatalities in side impact crashes.
Partnering with technology supplier Takata, GM’s front center air bag took three years to develop. It went through a series of designs to address packaging, cushioning, and restraint issues that could occur in different crash and occupant position scenarios.
Even though the front center air bag is not required by federal regulation, it will add to the vehicles’ third-party crash test performance results. “The front center airbag has real potential to save lives in side crashes,” said Adrian Lund, president of the insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “GM and Takata are to be commended for taking the lead in this important area.”
Watch the video of the air bag in action after the jump.