GM Introduces Industry-First Front Center Airbag

Front Center AirbagGM will add a front center airbag to its 2013 Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave vehicles. This industry-first airbag deploys from the right side of the driver’s seat and creates a barrier between the two seats in the front row.

Why create a barrier between the two seats? When far-side collisions — a front occupant is involved in a crash on opposite side of where they’re seated — occur, head, chest and spinal injuries can be severe. This happens because far-side occupants are either flung into the other seat or a passenger, if present, causing harm to both occupants, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Nearly 29% of fatalities for belted front occupants in side-impact non-rollover crashes are caused by these incidents, according to NHTSA.

The front center airbag is designed to restrain the driver and front occupant from colliding with each other or other objects in the cabin, and it acts as an energy-absorbing cushion to absorb the colliding vehicle’s reciprocal force.

The airbags will be standard on the 2013 Buick Enclave and standard on GMC Acadia and Chevy Traverse when equipped with power seats. The added airbag would give the large crossovers seven airbags, when equipped. All three crossovers already have top safety accolades from NHTSA and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The center airbag will also help improve roll-over safety, says GM.

Toyota said it’s also working on a center airbag, but it hasn’t released the safety system on a model yet.

Update: GM has cofirmed that the 2013 crossovers will debut a year from now, in the fall of 2012. 

Comments 

Amuro Ray

Seriously, this is getting ridiculous. What - r we in another car's war right now, in addition to hp war, that's call "air-bagS" war?

Woohoo - I've 20 airbags.
Oh no, the new model now comes with 25!

Imagine the cost (R&D, testing, which passes onto MSRP), weight (redesign the seats and what not to accommodate structure integrity), possible recalls, and the now more likely possibility of totally a pretty new vehicle of 2-3 years old in just 1 accident.

I've a MUCH better idea that will save money, weight (hence fuel cost too), insurance and pretty much all the issues with more airbags - require helmet use in a car as well. We have laws on helmet rules on 49 states already for motorcycles, so just extend the legislation to car use too.

For the long hair people - time to rethink your hairdo, or start stocking up on super -duper strength hairspray/gel products.

AR,
They're built into the seat so I would assume the technology is similar to other seat mounted airbags that have been in use for years. If you're insured it doesn't matter how much each airbag costs to replace once you get past your deductible anyway.

what's with the blurb in the story about people being flung into other passengers or other seats . . . how does this happen if you're wearing a seat belt?

Tim

@James,
It happens with ease. The design of the 3 point belt means that your inboard side is not restrained to the same degree as the outboard side. This is great when you want to reach something behind you, but not so great when a car hits the side of yours and you move sideways int he seat. The airbag just creates a cushion to prevent you and the other occupant from hitting each other or from getting flung around the cabin. The energy absorbancy aspect, I'm not so convinced on, but its a great idea and will save lives.

Derrick G

Here's a video of it in action that should answer some questions.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRihBWQt-H8&feature=player_embedded

G Steve

DG

Thanks for the video clip.
It is quite stunning to watch it.
It has already got my vote.
I support anykind of safety measures.

Amuro Ray

@ DT,

WRT insurance part - the concern is that, once these airbags start popping, @ ~$1K/pop I guess, $ starts to add up...

It doesn't take too much nowadays to have a vehicle deemed total loss simply because of airbag replacement. The guideline, I believe, is 70-80% of the current vehicle value.

WTF

There's a car for you Amuro Ray. It's called the Tata Nano.

Amuro Ray

As long as you drive responsibly, carefully, and defensively, u'll live a long life even if you ride a bicycle, WTF.

U do know that airbags are to protect our heads, sthg that a helmet will work gr8 too ;)

WTF

Helmets are for impact. Airbags are for minimizing forces on your head due to rapid deceleration.

And it doesn't matter what you do. You are only as safe as the most irresponsible driver on the road.

Zack

AR, do you really believe all the safety measures that could be taken have already been taken? The cost of this new airbag is cheap insurance and I applaud GM for proactively offering more protection. I think the trend is going to be more airbags, not less, so get used to it and the small additional costs.

Amuro Ray

@ Zack,

I'm all for safety too. What I'm debating here is whether there is/are cost-effective alternatives to some of the safety features w/o compromising the safety factor...in this case, multiple airbags.

1 thg for sure: cheap it is NOT! Yes, manufacturing cost is low, but the R&D, test, audit, certification, insurance (for the company), etc. those are expensive.

Look at this in a broader angle as well - your insurance cost. With this many airbags, an insurer will probably get some sort of discounts initially, until there is an accident. Then premiums will go up significantly due to add'l repair cost (on average $1000/pop). The "loss" that insurance companies have to pay out to body shop = increase premiums for other drivers (who not yet have the accident). That's how insurance premiums get calculated and how insurance companies spread the risks. Moreover, the likely hood that cars will deem totaled have increased, as vehicle wort 'bou 70% after 2 years and 50-55% after 3 years. Again, with more total loss pay-out, overall insurance cost for everyone will increase.

I'm a proponent for TCS, VSC, ABS, and whatnot. But if the purpose of the airbag is to minimize the potential damage to our head, which WTF seems to avoid mentioning in his/her argument, then why not have us wear helmets? It's only $200 or less to replace, no additional cost for R&D and testing, reduce vehicle weight (better fuel economy), and best of all, reduce repair cost after a collision.

I'm not saying that this is the best alternative, but sthg that we can all brainstorm about, and see if there are better ways than just keep on adding equipment/cost when talking 'bou safety of a vehicle. Yes, airbags are probably necessary, but do we need 11, 12, or even more?

Food for thoughts though - in race cars, they use helmets & 5 point harness. No airbag. The death rate is amazing low...

Derrick G

"Food for thoughts though - in race cars, they use helmets & 5 point harness. No airbag. The death rate is amazing low..."

Uhm, they also use full roll cages, which certainly wouldn't do anything to help with the weight issue. Also, unlike side or dash airbags, which often can cause many other components to have to be replaced, these damage only the seat-back. So costs should be less than for side airbags.

Fred

@Armuro
But what is the real cost of an Airbag? In this case, the airbag is protecting two occupants from hitting each other, you wont have to worry about insurance premiums or car replacement if your family is worried about the cost of a casket! I know it seems extreme and the cost of cars does go up with new technology such as this, but it does not take a high speed side impact to cause very severe injuries...the data I see everywhere said that 29% of fatalities in side impact crashes come from this type of crash.....and by the way, how much does the safety equipment in a NASCAR cost? Probably a bit more than these vehicles that GM is working on....

@Amuro

Yes this will be another inconvenient safety addition. But if your safety or your family's safety is at stake, would you rather prefer convenience? It is just like purchasing insurance; you may hate paying it, but you know it is really necessary in case of emergency.

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