2013 Chevrolet Cruze Simplifies the Airbag with Flexible Venting Technology
Nearly every frontal airbag in use today has a complicated two-stage igniter to protect occupants of all shapes and sizes without harming those on the extreme ends of the size and weight spectrum. New technology debuting in the 2013 Chevrolet Cruze with the driver airbag, however, aims to make the two-stage igniter a thing of the past while still meeting governmental safety standards.
With a two-stage igniter system, the smaller of the two igniters is triggered in lower-speed accidents and/or with small and light occupants, developing a peak pressure of somewhere between 23-28 psi. Larger occupants and higher-speed collisions trigger the 33-psi igniter (examples are relevant for the Cruze). These frontal airbags all have vents that release this pressure gradually to absorb the energy of the occupant during the duration of the typical wreck.
GM has figured out a way to provide appropriate pressure for all occupants with a single igniter generating 25-28 psi and a new flexible venting technology. Here’s how it works: The pressure from the igniter fills an internal “parachute” as it expands into the larger airbag. A tether between this parachute, which is moving aft in a car like the 2013 Chevrolet Cruze, is connected to a flap that keeps this vent closed. As the occupant presses forward against the expanding airbag, tension on this tether is relaxed, allowing the vent to open — quickly for a large occupant; more slowly for a smaller one. Voila! Appropriate pressure and cushioning for all.
So far the technology is only applicable to the driver bag, and at first, on the 2013 Chevrolet Cruze. According to Sigit Santosa, engineering group manager for compact cars and SUVs, driver bags are only subjected to 5th and 95th percentile occupants while the larger more complicated passenger bags face a wider array of occupants. Further study is needed (and indeed several technologies are on the drawing board). Like the front-center airbag on GM crossovers like the Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia, and Buick Enclave, the new airbag technology was co-developed by GM’s safety restraint supplier, Takata.
In recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration safety tests, the 2013 Cruze with the simpler, more cost-effective flexible venting airbag earned the same maximum 5-Star Overall Vehicle Score, as its 2011 and 2012 forebears did with a dual-stage air bag system. The 2013 Chevrolet Cruze, like many of its compact-segment competitors, is also considered a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
By Frank Markus