WUPPERTAL, Germany - Driver airbags will be standard on almost every European-built new car by 2000. Front passenger airbags will be factory-fitted on 70 percent of these cars, and at least 30 percent will have side bags, too, according to Delphi Automotive Systems.
More than 32 million airbags will be fitted to European cars in 2000, says General Motors' parts subsidiary. The growth in the airbag market will be nearly double that of air conditioning systems and eight times that of automatic transmissions.
Delphi has formed a new Adaptive Restraint Technologies Systems Team to keep pace with fast-changing safety regulations and technology.
Expertise will be concentrated at Delphi's technical center at Wuppertal, which specializes in electrical and interior systems. New facilities there include a HyGe test sled that can accelerate at up to 65g.
Today, most airbag systems deploy with constant force with no regard to the occupant's circumstances, or the severity of the crash.
In the future, airbags will deploy according to circumstances, said Jack Pikaart, director of product engineering at Delphi Interior & Lighting Systems. These include:
The size, weight and position of the occupant.
Whether the occupant is wearing a seatbelt.
The severity of the impact.
Airbags, and the sensing and diagnostics module (SDM) that controls them, will also be integrated with other safety systems, such as seatbelts and deformable trim, said Pikaart.
Delphi's test program involves a number of new technologies:
A sensor attached to an accelerometer located in the vehicle's crush zone will inform the SDM of a high-speed impact, so that full airbag deployment can take place if necessary.
An 'anticipatory crash sensor' will inform the SDM when the car is rapidly approaching an object. The sensor is likely to use radar.
New venting techniques will modify the degree and speed of airbag inflation.
A rollover sensor could give as much as 300 milliseconds' warning of a rollover.
A set of sensors will monitor the car's occupants. A prototype system can detect empty seats, rear-facing infant seats and occupants who are dangerously close to the fascia.