Honda presses on with external air-bags

Automotive giant Honda has patented a new design of external airbags for cars that could help protect pedestrians and motorcyclists

Honda external airbags

HONDA has patented an external airbag system for motor cars that could go some way to cutting injury rates for both motorcyclists and pedestrians.

While external airbags are not a new idea in the automotive industry – in the world of patents at least – the new system being put forward by Honda is a little bit smarter than just an airbag mounted to the front of the car.

Instead of having just one airbag that deploys automatically in the event of an accident, the new system scans the road looking for a potential hazard. Once located, the system actually measures the target, determining the size, shape, and location in relation to the vehicle.

Once this data is gathered the system register whether the target is small, medium, or large. For each scenario, the system will deploy a different airbag or deploy the airbag at a lower pressure. For instance, if a large target is detected, the largest airbag will fire and the bonnet of the car will raise slightly and move backwards. The action is designed to help catch the person, rather than bouncing them over the roof of the car.

In the other scenario, where a smaller person of child is detected, the airbag will deploy but this time at a lower pressure than before. The thinking is that the lighter weight of the child could be bounced off the car onto the ground by a fully pressurised airbag. Leaving them vulnerable to further injury from the road, a passing vehicle or road furniture.

What could the Honda airbag system mean for motorcyclists?

While we strongly believe that adding this type of protection to a car is no substitute for good observations and looking out for bikes, the extra protection for us and other vulnerable road users can only be a good thing.

For bikers specifically, the system does look likely to only help in situations whereby the rider is struck by a car that is travelling at 90° to the bike – effectively falling to the side and onto the bonnet mounted airbag. It’s a rare type of crash, as most motorists who have not seen the bike try and take avoiding action at the last minute, swerving left or right at the last minute.