Airbags are a critical aspect of car safety. With the cushioning that airbags provide during a crash, injuries and fatalities are significantly reduced. Until now, the primary focus of airbags has been to mitigate the impact to one’s head. Front airbags have been mandatory since the 1999 model year. Most vehicles also have side airbags. However, now, Hyundai is taking airbag design to the “nether regions” of protection. The South Korean automaker invented an unusual crotch airbag.
Airbags primarily protect vehicle occupants from head impact, but what about the other parts of the body? There are some other areas where you really need protection too. Hyundai, along with Kia (which Hyundai owns), is working on a crotch airbag. They recently filed a patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
In addition to protecting your “assets,” the crotch airbag helps make a seatbelt properly function, as detailed by CarBuzz. A problem with seatbelts is vehicle occupants rarely have them in the correct position — like how they are when tested by crash authorities.
Frequently, the lap belt rides up over the pelvis of the driver and passengers. This is due to a number of factors, including poor posture, gravity, and the vibration of a car. This improper lap belt positioning can be a problem during a crash, especially for smaller occupants. They can “submarine” — or slip underneath the lap belt. When one slips underneath the lap belt, it can cause organ damage as it tightens over the soft stomach.
Other automakers have tried to address the submarining problem via such things as knee and side-mounted seat airbags. However, these measures only minimize the damage. For the Hyundai and Kia crotch airbag, the aim is to eradicate the problem completely.
The crotch airbag deploys from the seat base between the thighs, which prevents you from sliding forward in your seat — removing any chance of submarining. It deploys based on multiple factors, including occupant location in the seat, weight distribution, and hip position. The deployment is at a variable rate in order to provide the most stability for the driver and passengers.
Another unusual aspect of the Hyundai and Kia crotch airbag is the distinctive “T” shape, which will likely make many viewers laugh. This is not only for the shape itself but also because a logical name for the airbag could be “T-Bag” — a testicular slang term that we won’t go into detail about due to “NSFW” reasons.
With its “T” shape, the crotch airbag features a thin inflatable support section. Linked to an inflatable horizontal bar at the top, it rises out of the front edge of the seat cushion. The airbag is securely held in place by fabric tethers.
To improve car safety, Hyundai and Kia are thinking outside of the box with the new crotch airbag. It will be interesting to see if and when the crotch airbag will be applied to production models.