Better airbag protection and seatbelts in the last few decades has improved the safety of people inside of cars and trucks, but that does nothing for people outside the vehicles in an accident. For those who find themselves involved in an auto accident while walking or bicycling, there are much fewer protections in place. Along with motorcyclists, pedestrians and cyclists are the most vulnerable users on the road. Without the protections of an automobile, vulnerable users often stand little to no chance of surviving a collision with a vehicle without significant injury.
A recent Digital Trends article discusses efforts being made to bring some of the safety innovations provided to those inside vehicles to those on the outside: namely exterior airbags. According to the article, as a part of its ongoing driverless car project, Google is working on putting exterior airbags on the vehicles, with an eye on cutting down on car accident-related pedestrian injuries and deaths.
Google is not the first company to work on the concept of external airbags. Years ago, Volvo had a design for an exterior airbag that would inflate around the base of the windshield, which could protect a pedestrian’s head should it land there during a car accident. However, Volvo’s design did not account for protecting a pedestrian from any other accident injury besides a windshield-related head injury.
Google’s proposed exterior airbags will attempt to provide protection to pedestrians’ upper and lower bodies. In addition to protecting more of a pedestrian’s body, Google’s external airbags would be made of a visco-elastic material similar to memory foam mattresses. By making the airbags out of that type of material, Google believes that they should have enough give to lower the chances of a pedestrian suffering a serious injury in a wreck.
Unfortunately, while exterior airbags may be on the horizon, they will more than likely not be a common vehicle safety feature for a while longer. Therefore, particularly in Washington, D.C., pedestrian accident injuries and deaths will continue to be a major issue.
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