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Camaro's air bags spontaneously deploy doing donuts

This Chevy Camaro put on quite a drifting demonstration at a Michigan dragstrip last weekend. Right up until its side air bags decided they'd had one too many donuts and spontaneously deployed, slightly burning a passenger. UPDATE


Caught by a spectator at the Milan Dragway in Milan, Mich., the Camaro driven by Paul Beiswenger showed no signs of injury before the side-curtain bags randomly appear to have deployed. The videographer says a woman riding in the passenger seat suffered a minor burn on her arm from the accelerant used to inflate the bag.

Our guess is the accelerometers used by the air bag system to sense when a crash happens got just enough g-force to assume the Camaro was about to smack something hard or roll over — but it's an unusual way to spoil not just a track day but the view on the ride home.


UPDATED: GM spokesman Alan Adler sends this explanation:

It is unusual to have this occur. However, it is possible for a driver to create conditions where the air bag sensors believe a rollover is imminent. This can lead to an unwanted air bag deployment. On rollover side curtain bags, the vehicle's rollover sensing system is looking for a certain set of factors that "predict" a vehicle is going to roll over. The airbag system cannot wait until it is too late to deploy the airbags. Drifting or creating a situation that has a certain combination of speed and vehicle angle can lead to an unwanted air bag deployment.

Take heart, Camaro fans — you always have straight lines.

H/T to Alan!

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Somewhere an engineer is likely to end up getting chewed out for not having calibrated the airbag sensors to treat the g-level and lateral acceleration forces from drifting in such a manner that the car filters out the vibration and g-input so that these false deployments do not occur in the real world. I remember seeing a video of Opel performing a similar test by ramming the car into gravel and other objects that should not cause a false deployment when there was no severe impact occuring to the structure of the vehicle.