Pedestrian Airbags

Researchers in Europe are seeking ways to keep pedestrians safe in traffic accidents. One idea is an airbag that shoots out from under a raised 'bonnet' (the hood, in the States).

"The raised bonnet absorbs some of the energy of the impact, reducing the risk of serious injury to the pedestrian, says Hardy, whose project forms part of the European Union-funded Integrated Project on Advanced Protection Systems (APROSYS). "If it's a large pedestrian or on a small town car, the airbag also provides a cushioning effect around the stiff peripheral regions [of the windscreen]," he says.

The airbag system used by Hardy was developed by the German company Takata Petri. To test its efficacy when combined with the raised bonnet, they were incorporated into a prototype Fiat Stilo by engineers at the Fiat Research Centre in Turin, Italy. The team then assessed the severity of head injuries in collisions with a dummy pedestrian.

A standard Stilo hitting a pedestrian at 40 kilometres per hour, so that their heads struck the back of the bonnet, would have a score of around 1000 on the Head Impact Criterion (HIC) scale - corresponding to an 18 per cent chance of a life-threatening injury. For pedestrians hitting Hardy's bonnet, the scores were reduced to between 234 and 682, while the windscreen airbag scores ranged from 692 to 945.

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