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Latest idea from the Dutch? Protect people from cars with exterior airbags

Posted by on April 24th, 2008 at 10:15 am

(Image: Autoliv Inc.)

According to an article published on Tuesday by Reuters’ Amsterdam news bureau, the Dutch Cycling Federation is calling on political leaders to urge the automobile industry to begin installing airbags on the hoods of cars.

The story reports that,

“The Dutch Cycling Federation said a study showed that 60 lives could be saved a year if air bags were installed on the hoods of cars, where cyclists are typically hit in accidents. External air bags could also cut 1,500 serious injuries a year.”

The DCF points to Autoliv, a Swedish company that already produces an airbag specifically for the protection of bicyclists and pedestrians.

The news is spreading quickly throughout the auto industry media outlets. AutoBlog.com reported the news and said, “It strikes us as a bit nutty to think that one day our cars could turn into giant bubbles to protect everyone everywhere in an accident, but hey, if it saves lives….”

[Thanks to reader Paul M. for the tip!]

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29 Comments
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    solid gold April 24, 2008 at 10:20 am

    not a bad idea at all. will they make a bumper version for all the agro assholes in SUV\’s?

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    Todd Boulanger April 24, 2008 at 10:21 am

    Jonathan thanks for posting this…this technology has been kicking around for years…I figured it just died out due to technology issues (cost reliability) or political issues.

    I guess if car designers do not want their cars to protect pedestrians then they may just want to install speed limiters to keep speeds below 25 mph in the city…or add other artifical intelligence to halt a car around human objects.

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    DJ Hurricane April 24, 2008 at 10:37 am

    I agree with Todd that a better solution – perfectly feasible – is to have all road users linked via a microchip with software in the motor vehicle that prevents vehicles from coming a certain distance from bikes and peds.

    And while they\’re at it, the speed limit sign can communicate with the motor vehicle too and the motor vehicle software can prevent it from exceeding the posted speed limit.

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    Opus the Poet April 24, 2008 at 10:40 am

    This has been coming up peripherally for a couple of years, as safety czars for various states and cities started asking why injuries and fatalities are going down for car occupants, but not for road users that were not encased in motor vehicles. I mean for me it was like \”Duh, people! you have cars designed so someone can drive into a concrete wall at 30 MPH and walk away unharmed, but you have next to no protection specified for peds and cyclists.\” You think maybe the message is started to sink in?

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    toddistic April 24, 2008 at 10:43 am

    Perfectly feasible? hardly so. I think focusing energy on getting more people on bikes is much more productive. Just because it comes from the Dutch doesnt make it a great idea.

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    Bob April 24, 2008 at 10:52 am

    Terrible idea. I cringe at the thought of people thinking it is \”safe\” to bump into bicyclists with their cars.

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    David Dean April 24, 2008 at 10:54 am

    DJ @ #3. I totally agree. If we added communication technology to cars we could improve traffic safety and traffic efficiency by also allowing cars to communicate with each other and stop lights. There are a few GPS solutions out there that allow drivers to volunteer to have a GPS speed monitor in their car in exchange for lower insurance rates.

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    Hanmade April 24, 2008 at 10:59 am

    30 years ago when I drove a motorcycle I had the idea of an inflatable vest to wear with a tube hooked to a pressurized cannister on the bike. In the event of being dislodged from the bike, the vest would immediately inflate to help protect the rider from impact. About 7 years ago, I saw the idea in a Popular Science, but have heard nothing since. It would probably work for a bicycle, too.

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    Bill April 24, 2008 at 11:07 am

    Thank god it\’s finally safe to hit bicyclists with my car. My added confidence should shave 10 minutes off my morning commute.

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    JDL April 24, 2008 at 11:11 am

    Here\’s another great idea from Europe to improve bike safety. http://www.bikeradar.com/news/article/movement-sensing-cycle-jacket-wins-design-award-15795

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    bahueh April 24, 2008 at 11:14 am

    I agree with Bob..what a god awful idea.
    lets give drivers another reason to drive irresponsibly around cyclists…

    \”hey, if I hit them, my big pillowtop hood will save them!!\”

    give me a freakin\’ break..

    how about lowering speed limits and actually making drivers accountable through the law and punishment system we already have in place. stop with the lame band-aid ideas…

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    chuck April 24, 2008 at 11:26 am

    I doubt that people who have airbags in their cars think \”hey, I can run into a concrete wall without hurting myself! let\’s do it!\’, just as I doubt that people would see this technology as a way to hit cyclists and get away with it. personally, I would much rather hit a car with a hood airbag than a normal hood, and I don\’t see how anyone could see this as a bad thing for cyclists.

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    Spencer April 24, 2008 at 11:33 am

    Rather than installing pro-active but limited steps like this, the vehicle design should account for pedestrian collisions.

    Honda does a lot of this type of design and crash testing. Accordingly, their bumbers are lower and the hoods are more swept back. Accordingly Honda\’s received lower insurance rates due to lower insurance pay out costs. This way the market drives the safety concerns.

    They should also consider a ban on brush gards. Those things are responsible for much more severe injuries in a pedestrian accident and are almost never used for their intended purpose.

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    tonyt April 24, 2008 at 11:34 am

    I don\’t think this will motivate anyone to \”bump\” into cyclists or peds. If anything, the specter of having an exterior airbag deploy, and then having to PAY to replace said airbag (hello insurance company) may well act as a disincentive.

    And really, where is it saying that this thing will deploy with a mere \”bump?\”

    Yes there are freaks out there who relish the notion of taking out a ped or a biker, but I hardly think this airbag is going to factor into their reptilian brain. Most people probably wouldn\’t even know that they had it.

    Most collisions are caused by inattentiveness/negligence, sometimes on the part of peds and cyclists, and this could save lives. A complete solution? No. But neither are crumple zones, seatbelts, or interior airbags when taken in isolation.

    Re it not being feasible; it\’s already in the works.

    \”Sweden\’s Autoliv Inc, the world\’s biggest air bag and seat belt maker, had already developed a bag that inflates from the bottom of the windscreen.\”

    As they say, just because it hasn\’t doesn\’t mean it can\’t.

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    SG April 24, 2008 at 11:45 am

    I\’ve been working with my 5 year old daughter since she was born about paying attention and looking both way before crossing the street. It has worked great as she has never been smashed. Seems to me that a lot of people in this town have forgotten what their parents taught them…why? Maybe they would rather someone else control their bodies and make their choices…\”Please control me Government Person\”

    I think the technology of pulling your head out of your rear is much cheaper than the above idea…I maybe wrong.

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    Mike April 24, 2008 at 11:46 am

    Food for thought: Do speed limits not increase as cars become \”safer\”?
    I remember when the speed limit was 55 on highways; then 65; now 70.

    These \”agro assholes in SUV\’s\” (post 1), are driving so at least partially due to a perceived sense of invincibility/safety. How would additional airbags not contribute to this?

    The issue is not that the cars are not safe enough, but rather, the drivers are not safe enough. Let\’s actually look at the problem and solve that. Eliminate the need for external airbags.

    Lastly, I am an \”agro asshole in\” my Subaru wagon, so don\’t stereotype you stop sign running lycra wearing hippie hipster blah blah blah bike rider. See what I am saying?

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    Icarus Falling April 24, 2008 at 11:49 am

    While interesting and forward thinking, this idea would never be implemented, for the obvious reasons…

    Big, corporate money…

    It is one thing to have a set of Swedes design such a thing, it is entirely another to convince the almighty auto manufacturers that they have to do it, or even that they should do it…..

    Back to the drawing board.

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    Matthew Denton April 24, 2008 at 11:52 am

    So right now cars can pretty much hit bicycles anyways, at best they get a few hundred dollar ticket… But repacking an airbag after it has deployed costs a couple thousand dollars, so this would actually be the first real penalty for hitting bicyclists…

    They should also design it so then when it deploys it scatters a bunch of little pieces of plastic with the car\’s VIN number on them. \”Hit and run\” would turn into, \”hit, spend 20 minutes finding and cleaning up all the VIN number tags, and then run.\”

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    heather andrews April 24, 2008 at 11:53 am

    Another logistical problem here is that once an airbag is deployed, it needs to be serviced by a professional mechanic. I imagine there would be a lot of grumpy people who wouldn\’t be wanting to pay for that service every time a shopping cart bumped their car or if another car tapped theirs while parallel parking.

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    TV commuter April 24, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    Adding additional weight to cars in the interest of safety is a double edged sword (this is partly what motivates many people who buy increasingly heavier behemoth SUVs). I don\’t think I want to add 50lbs of airbags to my bike either, even though I\’m sure it would be much safer.

    I think getting people to adopt lighter vehicles (obviously bicycles are the best) as well as promoting systems which prevent collisions from occuring in the 1st place are a more responsible approach.

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    tonyt April 24, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    Mike #16,

    Actually speed limits went down and THEN they went back up.

    Speed limits went to 55 mph as a Federal response to the energy crisis via the 1974 Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act.

    A repeal gave the speed setting authority back to the states in \’95.

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    BrandonS April 24, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    A helmet on a few of those Dutch heads might also save some lives.

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    Jason April 24, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    I think a giant fist ought to pop out of the steering wheel and break the driver\’s jaw when the exterior airbag deploys. Now [i]that[/i] would be progress!

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    Anonymous April 24, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    So upon impact with a vehicle, the person hit will magically land only on the hood- and stay put on the soft pillowy hood as opposed to bouncing off and falling head first onto the pavement? Yeah right- This is a horrible idea- and not because it would encourage motorists to be more careless around cyclists. Unless the entire car as well as a 10 foot radius around the car pops up into one of those inflatable bouncing palaces upon impact- the idea isn\’t going to cover much of anything.

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    Icarus Falling April 24, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    Bumper cars?

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    Zaphod April 24, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    I like new technology as much as the next guy but the external airbag… now that\’s just crazy talk.

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    mark April 25, 2008 at 6:50 am

    it looks like it would block some of your view through the windshield even when this thing is not inflated. Although I guess that\’s ok, cause if you dont\’ see anyone and you hit them, hey they\’ll be fine! They\’ll just bounce off and get run over by the big truck behind the car that just hit you! I couldn\’t see the auto industry going along with anything that would mess with all the design work that goes into making a car aesthetically pleasing.

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    Brian J. April 25, 2008 at 7:39 am

    This is not a good substitute for driver education.

    Can anyone here remember being taught anything in driver ed about \”vulnerable users\”? How about when you took the test to get your license?

    No?

    Your average driver does NOT realize (and finds it hard to believe) that they are driving around one of the most dangerous and hazardous forms of transportation.

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    GDH April 27, 2008 at 9:07 pm

    Add to DJ Hurricane #3: Also include a microchip link that stops bicyclists from their all too-common habit of running red lights. The mechanism would automatically puncture the tire thereby stopping the errant rider and providing some time for them to reflect on their unsafe action while repairing the flat

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