Coming in May: external airbag for Volvo's new V40 +VIDEO

New system aims to reduce cyclist and pedestrian casualties… so long as you get hit by a Volvo V40

by nick_rearden   March 15, 2012  


Volvo, the car company well known for the safety features on its vehicles is introducing an integrated airbag into the bonnet of the 2013 model year V40 which goes into production in May with the aim of giving more protection to pedestrians and cyclists in the event of a collision.

Thomas Broberg, senior technical advisor at Volvo, told The Engineer, "We’re using airbag technology to have a cushioning effect on the outside of the vehicle to try and protect pedestrians."

The external airbag, which was developed at Volvo’s own R&D facility in Sweden, inflates in less than a second and is most effective, according to Volvo, in collisions where the car is travelling between 12mph and 31mph. The airbag is deployed when sensors in the front bumper detect contact between the car and a pedestrian or cyclist.

Upon impact, the windscreen end of the bonnet is released and raised ten centimeters - 4" - by the inflating airbag, which covers the area under the raised bonnet as well as approximately one-third of the windscreen and the lower part of the A-pillars that support the windscreen.

"Another reason for raising the bonnet is to create extra space between the hood and the hard components in the engine-bay compartment — basically creating more space to provide a cushioning effect," said Broberg. posted an article in March 2010 which described the origins of the project; an initiative between a Swedish-American technology company Autoliv, the Dutch safety research consultancy TNO Automotive, the Netherlands’ Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management, The Fietresbond which is the Dutch cyclists’ union and an insurance company, Achmea.

Volvo has also developed a collision-warning and auto-brake system, which reduces the speed of the vehicle if a collision is unavoidable while sounding an alarm to alert the driver.

The external airbag and collision-warning system introduced at the same time could have an impact on pedestrian and cyclist casualty rates. UK Department for Transport figures show that 5,605 pedestrians and 2,771 cyclists were killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads in 2010, with most fatalities occuring in incidents where the car was travelling below 40mph.

The concept of external airbags has been around for several years but taking the leap from concept to being put into production is significant, Broberg told The Engineer.

Of course, pedestrians and cyclists are likely to have mixed feelings about this development. While applauding it at one level, campaigners for pedestrian and cycling safety are likely to lament the emphasis on passive safety while governments ignore the elephant in the room; that the more drivers become immunised from their responsibilities, the less likely they are to anticipate, consider and pay attention in the way Highway Codes generally advise.

As one of the commenters, Nick Jakeman on The Engineer website story has already put forward, "Systems such as this address the symptoms rather than the cause of the problem. Nothing will change until we can educate vehicle drivers that the safety of others should be their prime concern and that the use of a vehicle is not a right but a privilege with attendant responsibilities. The very use of the word 'accident' to describe a collision implies an abrogation of responsibility and a failure to recognise an individuals responsibility to others."

10 user comments

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Excellent. Now, if it can just fling out a great big mattress for when we land, all is tickety boo.

"Tant que je respire, j'attaque!"

John_the_Monkey's picture

posted by John_the_Monkey [421 posts]
15th March 2012 - 9:34

1 Like

I wonder if it could be set off by kicking a parked V40 hard enough.

Chris's picture

posted by Chris [105 posts]
15th March 2012 - 14:46

1 Like

Yeah, I could honestly see this making the inevitable impact with the pavement even more severe.

posted by TheBigMong [218 posts]
15th March 2012 - 20:14

1 Like

wonder how much it costs to repair/reload the air bag.....

posted by Parlee-king [38 posts]
15th March 2012 - 21:41

1 Like

I was told by a traffic safety officer recently that the rise in collision deaths from 7% at under 30mph to 19% at 35mph was due in great part to the cart wheel effect the extra momentum gives the victim: ie. you're more likely to travel over the car and land head first when hit at above 30mph. How giving you more lift by raising the bonnet helps I'm not sure... Thinking

Maybe cyclists and pedestrians could have hip mounted hi vis air bags and collision alarms? Failing this maybe something crazy- like a 20mph speed limit on residential roads and draconian speed enforcement.

Silly me. You're probably right....

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [1059 posts]
15th March 2012 - 23:40

1 Like

@MercuryOne - you mean reduce the risk of collision in the first place? That'll never catch on...

Chris's picture

posted by Chris [105 posts]
16th March 2012 - 18:48

1 Like

Yeah MercuryOne, your solution won't take years to develop,billions to invent/implement/legilate for,and uses that outdated device known as "common sense"!
What WERE you thinking? Wink


posted by rogie40 [27 posts]
17th March 2012 - 10:28

1 Like

This device will propably work abroad but not here as the manufacturer's say it is for impact speeds between 12 to 31 mph now who goes that slowly in a built up area in this country!


posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [591 posts]
18th March 2012 - 9:18

1 Like

[[[[ Great! Just the broken legs, then. Now, behind the wheel,we can pay even less attention to others, and more to all these nice in-car toys (increasingly fitted as standard). Brrmmm! Signed, Clarkson.


posted by PhilRuss [282 posts]
18th March 2012 - 16:04

1 Like

Yet another 'safety' feature to encourage the motorist to pay less attention to vunerable road users as they are now duped into the belief that the airbag will prevent them killing cyclists/peds. Bearing in mind the first thing to hit anything is the radiator grill. Maybe car manufacturers could attatch colour coded cushions to absorb the initial impact before being flipped onto the bonnet and cushioned by the secondary airbag.

Strictly enforced 20mph limits in all urban areas is the only way forward. Too many motorists belt along at 40mph + Either that or employ people to walk ahead of the vehicle with a red flag. Now that would sort out safety and the unemployment situation Devil

giff77's picture

posted by giff77 [1054 posts]
18th March 2012 - 20:42

1 Like