Ford Patents Wheel Airbags – For One Very Good Reason

Sam McEachern
by Sam McEachern

One dangerous result of a car accident involving a front offset impact is the possibility for the wheel to protrude into the vehicle’s cabin or footwell.

Automakers have typically remedied this in two ways: extend the front bumper forward and redesign the crumple zones and suspension to collapse outward, or use the suspension as a sort of doorstop to absorb some of the energy. Ford recently patented a rather ingenious third solution, however, which AutoGuide dug up from the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s online records.

Ford has patented a device that would inflate behind the front wheels upon impact. It acts like an airbag, absorbing the energy of the front wheels and preventing it from penetrating the cabin and pushing the pedal set up into the driver, for example. The device features a curvature, which would ensure the wheel is deflected outward and away from the car. The patent is designed specifically for a body-on-frame vehicle, which means we could eventually see it appear on the Ford F-150.

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Its a rather creative solution to a dangerous problem. The only downside would be added cost and complexity, but that’s shouldn’t be much of a concern when the result is improved crash test ratings. It would also help Ford to achieve better front overlap crash test ratings – widely considered to be the most dangerous type of crash to be in as a vehicle occupant.

Additional reporting by Dennis Chung

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Sam McEachern
Sam McEachern

Sam McEachern holds a diploma in journalism from St. Clair College in Windsor, Ontario, and has been covering the automotive industry for over 5 years. He conducts reviews and writes AutoGuide's news content. He's a die-hard motorsports fan with a passion for performance cars of all sorts.

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