General Motors is to offer the industry's first front centre airbag in a move designed to minimise injury for both the driver and front passenger in side impacts.
The new feature will be introduced on crossover models from Buick, GMC and Chevrolet in 2013.
According to GM, the front centre air bag deploys from the inner side of the driver’s seat and positions itself between the front row seats near the centre of the vehicle. "This tethered, tubular air bag is designed to provide restraint during passenger-side crashes when the driver is the only front occupant, and also acts as an energy absorbing cushion between driver and front passenger in both driver- and passenger-side crashes," the company says. "The air bag also is expected to provide benefit in rollovers."
No other bag in use today offers similar protection, a company spokesman says.
A GM announcement says that its analysis of the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System database found that far-side impact crashes, which the front centre airbag primarily addresses, accounted for 11 per cent of the belted front occupant fatalities in non-rollover impacts between 2004 and 2009 involving 1999 model year or newer vehicles. "These far-side fatalities, where the occupant is on the non-struck side of the vehicle, also represent 29 per cent of all the belted front occupant fatalities in side impacts."