Finally, Useful Automotive Electronics

Volvo, not surprisingly, has come up with a novel safety feature: a pedestrian airbag.

The U-shaped bag deploys in the area between the car's hood and the windshield in the event of a car-pedestrian collision:

The Volvo system sensors rapidly detect a car-pedestrian impact and respond much like what happens in a car-to-car collision. That triggers the section of the hood closest to the windshield to pop up slightly, a U-shaped airbag emerging from underneath, and forming a cushion around the base and sides of the windshield and A-pillars.

The system is one of many high-tech safety features being introduced on the Swedish carmaker’s V40 wagon, which is making its debut at this week’s Geneva Motor Show.

Automakers have been working on external safety features in response to strict EU laws regarding car-pedestrian accidents. These collisions account for nearly a quarter of vehicle-related fatalities, MSNBC reports.

In addition to the airbag, Volvo has developed sensor-based alarm systems to prevent collisions in the first place.

32 comments on “Finally, Useful Automotive Electronics

  1. prabhakar_deosthali
    March 10, 2012

    This is really an innovative feature that is not just some goodie offered but is a right foot forward concerning passenger safety.

    If such an air bag can protrude when an impending pedestrain collision is detected, the same system should also try to brake the car or steer it clear of the pedestrain safely enough for the in-car passengers  to avoid the collision.



  2. Adeniji Kayode
    March 10, 2012

    This is a good innovation by volvo, With this a large percentage of automobile accidents should become minimized.

  3. Adeniji Kayode
    March 10, 2012

    @Prabhakar, Don,t you think that that may be too much for a simple device to handle all at the same time?

  4. Cryptoman
    March 10, 2012

    I think technically braking and steering away is possible. However, in some pedestrian collision scenarios, there is hardly any time for reacting. Therefore, if the automatic collision avoidance handles such cases, sudden steering and braking may cause problems for the passengers on board (especially the youngsters).

    I think elecronically the embedded systems onboard a car can react within very narrow time frames (i.e. microseconds), however, we should not forget that a car is an  electromechanical device and there are physical factors such as momentum, acceleration and weight and their effects on the passengers that also have to be taken into account. Therefore, electrical response speeds do not give the complete picture of what is involved.

  5. ahdand
    March 10, 2012

    I dont think its too much because we are living in a world which is fully automated and eveyone has very high technical requirements. So why not have such complexed devices.

  6. prabhakar_deosthali
    March 10, 2012


    Why not?

    The case of a pedestrain is slightly different compared to the in-car passengers. The in car passengers are confined in a closed space and the airbag is aprefect protection for them against hitting the car body, steering wheel or dash board.

    But a pedestrian has a possibility of being thrown away even after hitting the ballon instead of the car body. So simultaneous braking of the car or swerving it away from the pedestrain would help in minimising the impact, in my opinion.

  7. _hm
    March 11, 2012

    That is quite novel safety feature. What can be maximum car speed for this? Will car stop along with this deployment?



  8. Wale Bakare
    March 11, 2012

    Therefore, electrical response speeds do not give the complete picture of what is involved.

    I think, modern vehicles are having more ECUs to handle such scenarios – timely critical systems. And i believe sub-units of each ECUs do integrate embedded real time operating system.

  9. Wale Bakare
    March 11, 2012

    Yes Adeniji, you give that to Volvo real time safety system in automobile. It has been enjoying the backing of European union and seveth framework programme's of EU commission

  10. Nemos
    March 11, 2012

    As you said Barbarba finally useful automotive electronics. I hope to see more “clever” electronics as the U airbag and from other automotive companies. 

  11. Daniel
    March 12, 2012

    I think so far automotive companies are worried about the saftey of in car travelers, it's a good news that they are taking care about pedestrians also. Hope this can minimize the causality.

    March 12, 2012

    Hi Barb.  I read about this in the Times over the weekend.  I wonder what this technology will add to the cost of a car?


  13. Himanshugupta
    March 12, 2012

    @prabhakar, i agree with you that this feature cannot give a complete safety net for pedesterian but it will weaken the collision impact. During accident, the first point of contact is usually the legs and the front of the car so there must be something there too for safety.

  14. tioluwa
    March 12, 2012

    It is definatley a good step, it cannot solve all the problems, and it cannot guarantee that every collision will be harm free on non-fatile, but its a good step all the same.


  15. Adeniji Kayode
    March 12, 2012

    I agree you on that. It will be a dangerous thing to rely so much on devices for actions that require quick responses

  16. Adeniji Kayode
    March 12, 2012

    @Flyingscot, Well, I dont think this should have anything to do with increase in the car price because while this might be a good marketing edge for Volvo, It is also some of the safty measures a car should have. People are not going to buy this car only because it has a special air bag but much more than that more features that tends to give more comfort.

  17. ITempire
    March 12, 2012


    I am a big fan of the idea of external security features for minimizing fatal injuries caused by collisions. The idea is so impressive that I think, like the EU, all other countries, including the less developed economies (that are usually less regulated as well), should introduce this as compulsory law to be implemented by the automobile manufacturers. The customers should'nt mind bearing its cost and I am sure, its cost wont be significant enough to reduce sales.  

  18. Barbara Jorgensen
    March 12, 2012

    I haven't seen any cost data attached to this feature. It looks like it is being rolled out as part of a whole new Volvo platform and is probably factored into total cost. But it would be interesting to see it broken out.

    I agree that this might be one more option that makes drivers “lazy.” But I can't think of anything more frightening than seeing an item — a garbage can, a cardboard box, anything –flying over the front bumper of my car. I hope I am never complacent enough that that doesn't scare me.

  19. DarkAngel
    March 12, 2012

    Great, just what drivers need, another device to make them more lazy than they already are. Shouldn't drivers be focused on avoiding pedestrians in the first place as opposed to having airbags that protect the car against pedestrians?  Why not have frontal or aft sensors that can detect a body working in harmony with the braking system to avoid hitting the pedestrian?

    Should someone jump from a building or a bridge and land on the hood of the helpless Volvo, how would the car sense this? Oh someone at the factory sure didn't think this one through.  Probably the same knucklehead that thought automating a car with a synch system that allows you to read emails and texts while driving taking your eyes away from the road instead of concentrating on it!


  20. bolaji ojo
    March 13, 2012

    There's another way you could text, read, drink, eat, watch a movie and surf the web while in a moving car. You get a driver. If you can afford it!

  21. Barbara Jorgensen
    March 13, 2012

    DarkAngel: I think the external airbag is to protect the pedestrian rather than the car…:-) This particular system also provides sensors to detect an object (aforementioned pedestrian) to prevent a collision in the first place. But relying on sensors in general is a bad practice–but used in combination with a alert driver, both the car and the public stand a better chance of coming away from an average errand unscathed.

  22. Barbara Jorgensen
    March 13, 2012

    Bolaji–exactly! I have always wondered why the rich and famous continue to get into trouble with DUI and DWI when they clearly can afford a driver or car service.

  23. Kevin Jackson
    March 13, 2012

    Great idea! I'd love it if I were in the embarrassing situation of hitting someone in front of me. On the other hand, if I stupidly hit something else; garbage can, cardboard box, stuff that fell off that truck, etc. I wouldn't be too happy replacing that $2000 airbag.

    Why stop there? What I want is a bigger airbag on the outside of the car that deploys when I hit another car or retaining wall. Now you've got something that would be a game changer, like seatbelts and later, airbags.


  24. Barbara Jorgensen
    March 13, 2012

    That's what I would call a smart car!

  25. Adeniji Kayode
    March 14, 2012

    @Barbara, I agree with you on that, I feel there should be a measure on the rate at which our lives activities are becoming more dependent on electronics. If care is not taken, we may become so lazy even in thinking just because the is a device that it handling that natural task for us

  26. Adeniji Kayode
    March 14, 2012

    @Barbara, I think the reason is because once in a while everybody love to feel being in charge.

  27. Adeniji Kayode
    March 14, 2012

    @ Kelvin, That is a smart car indeed, if you continue, you will soon desire to have a parachute in your car.

  28. William K.
    March 15, 2012

    We tested a “front of vehicle” airbag for a private inventor back in about 2002. It was quite effective but it would have been quite expensive as well. And what does happen when it fires while on the expressway a chunk of trash flies up in front of you, and it triggers. Because it must sense very quickly and at some distance out. That much is physics. Who pays for those repairs when it fires accidentally? And the repairs will be a bit more than the $2000 mentioned already. One more question is whose fault is it when the thing fires in error and causes an accident? Please answer that one.

  29. Barbara Jorgensen
    March 16, 2012

    @William: I had the same questions regarding the airbag. Let me see what I can find. I know it costs about $2,000 to have an internal airbag reloaded in an average car. Lucklily, I have never experienced this. But if the truck in front of me loses a 2×4 or box that inflates the external airbag, you can be sure I would track them down! Maybe that is a new use for dashboard cameras: capturing the license plate of the vehicle in front of you.

    Up in my area, deer and/or moose are also an issue. I wonder if there is an insurance option that covers this…

  30. William K.
    March 17, 2012

    The forward looking camera is a realy interesting suggestion, indeed. IT would need a loop buffer that would be similar to what we developed for crash recording, which does a great job, but it is not simple.nor is it particularly cheap. But it could certainly be another game changer.

  31. Anne
    March 18, 2012

    Volvo has been known for its focus on safety, this is a good technology.

  32. JADEN
    March 18, 2012


    It's indeed a good step, though pedestrians would still be hit by cars but this could be to mitigated the risks of serious injury.

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