Volvo Adds Pedestrian Airbag Technology to Safety Technology

While auto manufacturers throughout the world continue to add safety features designed to protect the occupants inside the vehicle, little has been done to protect pedestrians outside the vehicle. However, this may start to change as Volvo will bring to the European market several new safety features to the road specifically designed to protect pedestrians with its soon-to-be-released V40.

The V40 will employ some pedestrian detection systems that are already in place on its S60 sedan and XC60 SUV, but what truly makes it revolutionary is that it will be the first production vehicle in the world to use an exterior pedestrian airbag. This special airbag is placed underneath the front cowl, just behind the hood, and is undetectable when not deployed.

According to Volvo, sensors in the front bumper will be able to detect physical contact between the car and a pedestrian. Upon impact, a pyrotechnical release mechanism is used to raise the back of the hood approximately 10 centimeters, and deploy the airbag. The hood raises not only to make room for the airbag, but also to create more space between the hood and the much harder engine just below. The hood itself is designed to have some impact absorption ability, and the added angle of the hood after deployment should lessen the severity of the blow for the pedestrian even more.

When inflated, the airbag will cover the area under the raised hood, the lower third of the windshield, and the lower part of the driver and passenger-side front a-pillars. In addition, the system is designed only to activate from approximately 12-30 mph because Volvo calculates that 75% of all pedestrian accidents occur at around 25 mph. This way, the pedestrian airbag won't deploy in the event of a high-speed crash, where it's not likely to help matters much.

The pedestrian airbag system is designed to work along with Volvo's Pedestrian Detection and full auto brake systems. These systems work hand-in-hand, and consist of a radar unit built into the front grille, a camera fitted in front of the interior rear-view mirror, and a central control unit for both devices. The radar works to detect objects like a pedestrian or vehicle in front of the car, and determine the distance to the object. The camera's job is to determine what type of object is front of the vehicle.

Volvo also designed the dual-mode radar system to have a wide field of vision that not only picks up on objects in front of the vehicle, but can also detect pedestrians standing on the side of the road who are poised to cross. The radar is programmed to trace a pedestrian's pattern of movement and calculate if the person is likely to step into the road in front of the car. The system can also detect pedestrians who are at least 31.49 inches tall, or 2-and-a-half feet tall.

If the system determines that a person, or an object, is a collision risk, the driver receives an audible warning combined with a flashing light on the windshield produced by a heads-up display. In the event the driver does not react in time, the system is designed to apply full braking power.

Unfortunately for U.S. pedestrians, it is still unclear whether or not Volvo will bring the V40 to U.S. shores.

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