As long as there are cars on the road, there will be accidents. Because of this auto manufacturers have spent substantial amounts of time and money trying to develop safety features that will decrease the chance of a serious injury in the event of a crash. While this is all fine and dandy, what about when the object being struck by the vehicle isn't another vehicle, but rather a pedestrian? What can we do to improve their chances of survival? This is exactly the question that a team of crash specialists from Cranfield University have set out to answer.
According to statistics from 2007, about 646 pedestrians were killed on Britain's roads, with more than a third of those being attributed to impacts with the windshield or A-pillars. Taking this data, the team of specialists began designing a system that is meant to protect the individual from striking these areas at such a high velocity. The result was an external airbag that is hidden under the hood until it is needed.
When the airbag is deployed, it will cover several inches across the bottom of the windshield as well as providing more coverage on both of the A-pillars. These areas have been identified as the most likely place to be impacted during a pedestrian/vehicle collision and it is estimated that this system could reduce serious injuries by about 50%.
From the image you can see how it looks when deployed, but what you may not notice is how the hood also raises slightly when the airbag inflates. This is not to simulate an accident; it's built into the system as another means of protection. When something strikes the hood of your vehicle in a downward motion, the hood will crumple into the engine bay and stop when it makes contact with the motor. By raising the hood, it allows more room for the hood to flex and therefore more time for the object to slow down.
The airbag system is currently being tested and could be ready for large scale production in new vehicles as early as 2014. The team has also said that the new pedestrian airbag shouldn't increase the price of a vehicle by very much, but no estimates have been released as of yet. Telegraph