Image: Hyundai Mobis

South Korean automotive supplier Hyundai Mobis has developed a new airbag that aims to prevent vehicle occupants from flying out of their cars’ sunroofs during rollovers. Here’s how the intestine-shaped safety device works.

About a week ago, Hyundai Mobis announced that it’s ready to mass-produce its “panorama sunroof airbag” after finishing testing (which included “heat resistance and vibration resistance tests”). The company, which specializes in aftermarket parts for Kia and Hyundai, plans to market the technology to makers of luxury SUVs.

Here’s how the system works:

The panorama sunroof airbag is installed inside the sunroof, and deployed forward from the rear of the car. It resembles the curtain airbag that is deployed alongside the windows of the vehicle in a broadside collision. If the turning angle of the vehicle is changed due to rollover, the sensor detects it, and the inflator deploys the airbag. The airbag cushion inflated by the gas covers the entire roof surface of the vehicle in only 0.08 seconds and protects the passengers.

Hyundai Mobis says in its press release that the setup is more complicated than a typical airbag because it’s integrated into the sunroof system, and it has to activate whether the sunroof visor is open or closed. In the latter case, the airbag deploys between the glass and the sun shield.

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Hyundai Mobis says its tests showed clear benefits of the new system:

In a road test using dummies, when the airbag was deployed, it prevented the passenger from being flung out of the car and cushioned the impact on the head. Serious injuries likely to result in the death of the passenger were reduced to minor injuries.

It’s worth mentioning that the concept of using an airbag to prevent people from being ejected through glass isn’t exactly new, as NHTSA mentioned BMW’s setup (which applied to door glass, not sunroofs) in a paper way back in 2002:

The use of ejection resistant glazings has been impeded by deficiencies in durability and by higher cost, weight, and complexity. A better and more practical approach to the window ejection problem may be the inflatable devices such as the Inflatable Tubular Structure (ITS) offered in 1997 by BMW and the air curtain being adapted by Saab, Volvo, Ford and Daimler/Chrysler. These devices inflate and cover the front side windows, reducing head impacts and ejections through windows.

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Hyundai Mobis mentions that sunroofs are a $6 billion industry, which is expected to grow an average of 11 percent each year until 2022. This fact, combined with recent press coverage on how easily sunroofs are shattering, makes now perhaps the ideal time for the new tech to hit the market.