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Inventive vehicle airbag system could reduce pedestrian injuries

It may sound like something out of a science fiction movie (and it is unlikely you will see anything like it in Anchorage, Alaska in the next few years), but Volvo is manufacturing a car that will have an exterior airbag system meant for protecting pedestrians in the event of an accident.

You may imagine the vehicle eventually looking like a Zorb or some other cushioned ball of air if the system deploys -- when, in fact, the system is designed to prevent pedestrian accidents in the first place. If the system cannot achieve that, then a smaller airbag deploys on the hood of the car to hopefully prevent the pedestrian from suffering a serious head injury.

These types of systems are actually somewhat common in Europe, after the European Union bolstered pedestrian safety laws. In response, some car manufacturers introduced sensor systems that could tell when a pedestrian accident was imminent.

Volvo's design is similar to this idea, with the airbag deployment as the added bonus. The system senses if a pedestrian is near the car and if an accident will occur. If the driver does not respond in time, the car automatically applies the brakes; and if that won't be enough to prevent a collision, the system slightly pops the hood of the car and deploys an airbag that covers part of the hood and the windshield.

Unfortunately, it seems Volvo may not be releasing the vehicle that will carry this system in the U.S. But, such a creative solution could be incorporated into U.S. vehicles somewhere down the line, cutting down on the number of serious injuries pedestrians needlessly suffer in accidents that involve distracted or negligent drivers.

Source: POPSCI, "Volvo's New Exterior Airbags Protect Pedestrians," Shaunacy Ferro, Feb. 20, 2013

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