Hyundai Mobis has unveiled the world's first sunroof airbag, designed to stop occupants being thrown from their cars in a rollover.
According to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 260 people were thrown from the sunroof of their cars in rollover accidents between 2010 and 2016. The company said the global market for sunroofs was worth around US$6 billion ($7.82 billion), and is expected to grow by around 11 per cent per year until 2022.
Larger, panoramic roofs are also growing in popularity, as more manufacturers add them to the options list.
Although it looks like a larger curtain airbag, Hyundai Mobis says it was significantly more difficult to engineer. The unit is integrated into the sunroof housing itself, and deploys from the rear of the car first.
Above: Panoramic sunroofs are becoming increasingly popular
Its activation is linked to a yaw sensor in the car, which detects a rollover and inflates the bag in less than 0.08 seconds.
When inflated, the airbag covers most of the roof. Along with helping stop people being thrown from the cabin, the unit is said to help prevent head and neck injuries in serious rollover accidents.
It could be a while before this technology starts showing up in production cars. The airbag needs to be integrated into the sunroof surround itself, and it needs to work when the roof is open and shut – when the sunroof is closed, it needs to activate between the glass and the sliding sun shade most cars use to keep the cabin cool.
At the moment, the company is aiming to have the technology ready for production by 2019. Given it is a key supplier to Hyundai, Kia and Genesis, it would be safe to assume one of those brands will debut the system, should it be deemed fit for production.
Rival suppliers like ZF are also working on something similar, but Hyundai says it has managed to refine the design in a way its rivals can't.