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by Tim Beissmann

General Motors has developed what it claims is an industry-first: the front centre airbag.

The front centre airbag seems like the obvious next step in passenger protection. The airbag is designed to protect drivers and front passengers in far-side impact crashes, where the affected occupant is on the non-struck side of the vehicle.

General Motors senior staff engineer in advanced restraint systems, Scott Thomas, explained the new airbag is not currently required by any federal regulations, and insisted no other airbag in a passenger vehicle offered the same restraint and cushioning for front-seat occupants.

GM’s front centre airbag deploys from the right side (inside) of the driver’s seat, and has been designed to offer protection and support both when the driver is the sole occupant and when travelling with a passenger.

According to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System data, far-side impact crashes were responsible for 11 per cent of belted front occupant fatalities in non-rollover impacts between 2004 and 2009.

GM and technology supplier Takata have spent the past three years developing the airbag to optimise it for a variety of crashes and occupant positions and sizes.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety president, Adrian Lund, has thrown his support behind the new technology.

“The front centre airbag has real potential to save lives in side crashes. GM and Takata are to be commended for taking the lead in this important area,” Mr Lund said.

The front centre airbag will be fitted standard to the 2013 model year variants of the Buick Enclave, as well as the GMC Acadia and Chevrolet Traverse when fitted with power seats.




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