Innovations in Airbag Design: The Future of Car Safety

Airbags are essential safety equipment in all cars, trucks and SUVs. When they deploy properly, airbags can help protect drivers and passengers from serious injuries, and they can even save drivers’ and passengers’ lives in many cases. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that airbags have saved more than 50,000 lives over the past 30 years.

Even so, there are still many issues with modern airbags. While airbags prevent many serious and fatal injuries, they also cause serious and fatal injuries in some cases. As an airbag lawsuit lawyer, this is a fact I know all too well. I regularly talk to victims and family members who have questions about asserting their legal rights after accidents involving:

  • Airbag deployment failures
  • Airbag explosions
  • Burns from contact with airbags and airbag chemicals
  • Face and eye injuries caused by airbag shrapnel
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) caused by dangerous and defective airbags

7 Airbag Safety Innovations Currently Undergoing Research and Development

As a result, it is clear that more innovation is needed. Here is a look at some of the efforts that are currently underway:

1. Curtain Airbags and “Far-Side Airbags” that Provide Nearly 360-Degree Protection

Several manufacturers have begun developing curtain airbags and “far-side airbags” that provide nearly 360-degree protection to both drivers and passengers. Side curtain airbags are designed to surround vehicle occupants to help prevent arm, shoulder and head injuries, while rear curtain airbags are designed specifically to protect back seat passengers in the event of a rear-end collision.

Far-side airbags have also started appearing in some manufacturers’ vehicles. These airbags are installed on the inside of the driver’s and passenger’s seats and are designed to prevent collisions between drivers and passengers during side-impact accidents and provide protection from other hazards in the vehicle.

2. Flexible-Venting Airbags

As reported by, General Motors (GM) has led the way in developing flexible-venting airbags. The report states that “[t]he flexible-venting airbag has a special vent that uses the driver’s forward momentum to push out the gas from the inflated bag, making for a less harsh impact.” While GM initially designed the flexible-venting airbag as a driver’s airbag only, this technology could also help protect front and back-seat passengers from airbag-related injuries.

3. Improved Crash Sensors and Airbag On/Off Switches

To protect occupants during a crash, airbags need to deploy in the blink of an eye. As a result, it is imperative that a vehicle’s crash sensors are working properly. Crash sensor failures have been an issue in the past, and manufacturers are currently working on developing improved crash sensors that minimize the risk of non-deployment or delayed deployment.

Airbag on/off switches need to work properly as well. Historically, these switches have activated or deactivated airbags based on a passenger’s weight. But weight isn’t the only relevant factor, and manufacturers are now using additional technologies and metrics to determine whether an individual occupant’s airbags should deploy.

4. New Airbag Materials

Burns caused by friction between airbags and the skin are common airbag-related injuries. Typically, airbags are made of a woven fabric, such as nylon, that has a high level of friction. To prevent friction burns caused by airbag deployment, some manufacturers are now looking at using alternate synthetic materials that are strong enough to withstand the forces of airbag deployment but that do not have the same resistance level as nylon and other fabrics.

5. New Methods of Airbag Inflation

One of the biggest safety risks associated with airbag deployment is the risk of suffering injuries due to airbag explosions. This is of particular concern with Takata and ARC airbags. The NHTSA has found that tens of millions of Takata and ARC airbags were sold with faulty inflator mechanisms that are prone to exploding rather than deploying properly in the event of a crash.

Due to the risk of explosions, many companies are now exploring new and safer ways to deploy vehicle airbags. For example, last year, one company reported that it was developing a new airbag inflator technology that relies on Bernoulli’s principle. According to the company, its technology “will inflate a much larger airbag with an even smaller inflator than required today.”

6. Seatbelts Equipped with Airbags

Another recent airbag innovation is the development of seatbelts that are equipped with airbags. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), these “inflatable safety belts” are designed to reduce the number of chest injuries caused by the restraining force that seatbelts impose during a crash. Multiple manufacturers sell vehicles equipped with inflatable safety belts already, and you can tell if a vehicle is equipped with these as its seatbelts will look like they have built-in padding or be thicker than normal.

7. Airbags for Face-to-Face Seating

As automotive manufacturers continue making the push to sell autonomous vehicles, they are also having to rethink vehicle occupant safety. For example, many concepts for autonomous vehicles allow front-seat drivers and passengers to spin their seats around to face backward while on the road. In 2023, Hyundai reported that it was in the process of developing new face-to-face protection airbags that drop down from a vehicle’s roof to face rear-facing drivers and passengers. In its press release, Hyundai also reports that it is developing “which are as much as 40% thinner than the previous ones to better suit electric vehicles that have a very different structure compared to internal combustion cars.”

Do You Have a Claim for an Airbag Injury? Find Out from an Experienced Airbag Lawsuit Lawyer for Free

While manufacturers are looking for new ways to make airbags safer, airbag-related injuries remain a significant concern for drivers and passengers of all ages. If you, your child, or any other member of your family has suffered an airbag-related injury, it is important that you speak with an airbag lawsuit lawyer about your legal rights. Call 866-247-2247 or contact us online to arrange a free consultation.