In 1992, 31 years ago, a Korean automaker unveiled a car equipped with an airbag for the first time in the country ‒ Hyundai’s New Grandeur. Airbags protect occupants from impact in a car accident. When it detects an impact, it instantly inflates and acts as a cushion. While seat belts hold occupants in the event of an accident, airbags prevent occupants from colliding with the interior of the vehicle or the other passengers next to them.
In 1992, in the Korean market, airbags were an advanced safety feature only allowed on the most luxurious models. However, dissemination of safety technology is not enough no matter how hastily. Accordingly, Hyundai Motor Company quickly started to popularize airbags. In 1995, the Avante, a semi‒midsize car, could also be equipped with an airbag as an option, and the Avante XD, released in 2000, is the first semi‒midsize car to have airbags in all trims. Now, 23 years later, state‒of‒the‒art airbags are housed in all models to keep us safe.
Hyundai Mobis also worked hard to spread and develop airbags. Since mass‒producing the first airbag in 2002, the company has contributed to everyone’s safety with continuous safety technology development. In particular, in the field of airbag technology, Hyundai Mobis is leading global trends ‒ such as the world’s first panoramic sunroof airbag in 2017 and the world’s first roof airbag in 2019.
The roof airbag covers the entire sunroof in 0.08 seconds in the event of a rollover accident, preventing occupants from leaving and reducing the risk of neck and head injuries. Of the 13,700 subversive accidents that occurred in North America for 15 years from 2000, 2,400 cases were reported where passengers fled the vehicle, with 10 percent of them thrown out of the sunroof. According to data released by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the experiments showed that the roof airbag has been effective in preventing passengers from leaving through the sunroof.
Hyundai Mobis is currently conducting development for mass production of roof airbags. Also, they are trying to go a step further and make safer cars and safer airbags ‒ like the brain injury prevention airbag developed by Hyundai Mobis with its own technology. The airbag received a perfect score in the Brain Injury Criterion (BriC), a new crash safety test by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Airbags currently housed in mass‒produced vehicles, or similar concept products, focus on preventing head rotation injuries by cushion size or its shape. However, Hyundai Mobis’ brain injury prevention airbag has a protrusion (auxiliary chamber) that suppresses the rotation of the occupant’s head. This creates a large cushion by maximizing the pressure of the protruding part at the moment when the passenger in the passenger seat is pushed toward the inside of the vehicle immediately after a collision.
Although the concept is simple, precise coordination is essential as crashes and airbag deployments happen in a fraction of a second. For example, Hyundai Mobis’ brain injury prevention airbag inflates the auxiliary chamber to the maximum in 0.05 seconds in the event of a side collision, and operates a device that maximizes the chamber pressure at 0.06 seconds when the occupant’s head rotates to prevent the occupant’s head from rotating. During the development phase, the automaker had already utilized many of the element technologies that had already been registered and applied for domestic and international patents. Thanks to this, they were able to reduce all three factors—number of parts, product size, and weight—to make it suitable for mass production.
Hyundai Mobis’ brain injury prevention airbag has proven its excellent performance in a slope collision test that NHTSA plans to introduce by reflecting actual accident situations. In recognition of its excellent technology and originality, it was awarded the Silver Tower Order of Industrial Service Merit, the highest award, at the ‘New Technology Commercialization Contest’ held by the National Agency for Technology and Standards of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
The story doesn’t end here; Hyundai Mobis’ airbag technology looks to a greater future ‒ like the technologies related to Purpose Built Vehicles (PBV). The PBV, which can change its interior according to the purpose of use, and the interior composition of a self‒driving car that does not require a driver will be very different from today’s cars. Of course, the safety technology that protects the occupants must also evolve. As the seat arrangement changes, the airbag deployment location and method must also change.
Therefore, Hyundai Mobis has developed an ‘Airbag Total Package’ tailored to PBVs that fulfill various purposes such as entertainment, relaxation, and outdoor activities. The windshield of the car becomes a large display, and airbags are housed in numerous spaces inside the car to match the variable interior in which the seats rotate accordingly.
For example, the ‘Face‒to‒face airbag’ included in the Hyundai Mobis airbag total package is mounted on the ceiling to prevent collisions with passengers sitting opposite each other. ‘Curtain airbag’ are attached to the four connections between the windows and the roof, and like the roof airbag, they tightly block large windows. This not only prevents occupants from escaping in large accidents such as rollovers, but also prevents the penetration of foreign substances. In addition, the ‘Omni‒directional airbag’ that operate on the left and right of the back of the seat act as a kind of protective shield covering the body of the occupant. The three types of airbags engage seamlessly to completely cover the passengers.
Hyundai Mobis also developed a slim airbag that is 40% thinner than existing airbags in preparation for the age of electrification. This technology is well suited to the increasingly thin seats of electric vehicles. The slim airbag is compact enough to be attached to a variable display panel, and features an adjustable airbag capacity. By adjusting the airbag capacity to match the distance between the occupant and the display, it optimizes occupant protection performance. Inflating more or less than necessary reduces its protective ability. Hyundai Mobis’ M.VICS 4.0 equipped with a slim airbag was exhibited at CES 2023 in a private booth for global buyers and received many favorable comments.
In the era of PBVs and autonomous driving, car design will fundamentally change ‒ to create more comfortable and more spacious interiors. However, safety will still be the most important value in the future. Like Hyundai Mobis’ ‘Airbag Total Package’, the need for airbags that protect occupants by tightly covering every corner is sure to increase. Hyundai Mobis will become a safety solution provider in the field of future mobility while securing intellectual property rights related to airbag technology from various angles. Many are expecting Hyundai Mobis to bring a safer future for everyone.
HMG Journal Operation Teamgroup@hyundai.com
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