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TRW Debuts New Airbag Technologies for Rear-Seat Passengers

February 17, 2015

While airbags were created to save the lives of all vehicle occupants, most of the technologies available today were designed specifically for front-seat passengers. TRW Automotive realized that protection for rear-seat passengers was lacking, and soon worked to fill the gap. Now, the automotive supplier has two new technologies designed to ensure the safety of those sitting in the back seat.

TRW discovered that half of crash-related injuries to rear-seat occupants were the result of either the head hitting the front seat or a tight seat belt injuring the passenger’s chest. The company sought to prevent both occurrences with two kinds of airbags.

The first kind is a roof-mounted airbag, a technology created to prevent the head from slamming into the front seat. TRW debuted this “bag-in-roof” technology in a Citroën C4 Cactus hatchback in 2014. The airbag was initially intended for front-seat occupants, but the technology can be used to boost rear-seat safety in larger vehicles like SUVs.

The second kind is a rear airbag designed to prevent passengers from being injured by their seatbelts in a collision. Dubbed as Scarab, it takes the form of an inverted “U” airbag that is mounted at the back of the front seat (see picture). It works the same way as knee or curtain airbags. TRW chose such shape for a reason—it adjusts to the distance between the front seat and the rear passenger.

Because this rear airbag provides a cushion in the event of a frontal crash, the rear-seat passenger is less likely to be injured as a result of high loading. Moreover, it allows coverage when the front seat is pushed in a forward position.

TRW said that creating airbags for rear-seat passengers is different from creating those for front-seat occupants. According to the company, those in the back seat need a different kind of protection compared to those seated in front. TRW also acknowledged that developing safety technologies for rear-seat passengers was more challenging because the team needed to consider a wide range of occupant ages and sizes. They needed to ensure that the airbags would protect both children and adults, regardless of their height.

TRW’s rear-seat airbags are expected to arrive first in Europe. These will come in handy as crash tests for a dummy the size of a six-year-old child in the back seat will start in the region next year. The technologies may arrive in the United States a little later, though federal regulators have started to pay attention to rear-seat safety.

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