Early Airbag Concepts
The airbag's history began in the 1950s. John Hetrick patented the first inflatable crash-landing device, inspired by a near accident. Hetrick's design, however, was never commercially adopted, but it laid the groundwork for future developments in car safety.
First Commercial Airbags
In the 1970s, Ford and General Motors began exploring airbags, with GM installing them in a limited number of vehicles. These early models were rudimentary, only inflating in front-end collisions and not as advanced as today's systems.
Airbags Become Standard
The 1980s saw mandatory automatic seat belts or airbags in cars, but it wasn't until 1998 that airbags became standard in all new cars, drastically improving driver and passenger safety on the road.
Smart Airbag Technology
Advancements in sensor technology led to 'smart' airbags in the 2000s, capable of detecting seat occupancy, passenger size, seat position, and crash severity, enabling them to deploy more safely and effectively.
Side-Impact Airbags Introduced
Improvements in airbag technology introduced side-impact and curtain airbags, significantly protecting occupants in side collisions and rollovers. These airbags have been pivotal in reducing fatalities and severe injuries in types of accidents where standard front airbags are less effective.
Pedestrian Airbag Innovation
Recent innovations include pedestrian airbags, which deploy on the outside of the vehicle to protect pedestrians in a collision. First introduced by Volvo in 2012, these airbags cushion the impact against the windshield, an area often causing serious pedestrian injuries.
The Future of Airbags
Emerging technologies are shaping the future of airbags, including the development of rear-seat airbags and even external airbags to protect vehicles from side collisions. These advancements continue to push the boundaries of vehicular safety.