The 2013 Chevrolet Cruze comes with a new air bag technology: a frontal air bag for the driver that is designed with a different type of venting. General Motors says the new technology deploys the air bag more efficiently while providing crash protection that is equivalent to, or better than, more expensive and complex dual-stage air bags, depending upon the type of crash.
Testing done by G.M. shows that this single-stage driver air bag provides excellent cushioning for drivers of different sizes in low- and high-speed crashes, the automaker says.
The flexible venting technology is also less expensive to produce and weighs less than dual-stage air bags, according to G.M.
The Cruze with the new air bag has been tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and got the top five-star rating in the frontal crash test as well as a five-star rating over all – just as the earlier model with the old dual-stage air bag.
And while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not conducted crash tests of the Cruze with the new system, its engineers have reviewed G.M.’s video of what is called the moderate frontal overlap crash test, as well as the injury data to the crash test dummy. The institute then assigned the car the highest rating of Good.
“The flexible venting system seems to work just as well as the dual air bag” in the test, said Adrian Lund, the president of the insurance institute.
Current dual stage air bags have venting holes that are open at all times; they allow the gas to escape to help manage the energy when the air bags deploy. But because the venting holes are open at all times, the air bags can lose gas early in the deployment before the occupant has had time to hit the air bag. Therefore, it has to inflate using a stronger inflator and at a higher rate of inflation.
With flexible venting, the vents are closed early in deployment and open only when the driver hits the air bag using his or her momentum. Because the air bag retains the gas until the driver comes into contact with it, the air bag can inflate with lower pressure no matter the severity of the crash and it can maintain the pressure longer.
The lower rate of inflation may help prevent inflation-related injuries to smaller drivers as well as drivers who sit closer to the steering wheel.
The flexible venting may also help larger drivers who sit farther back from the steering wheel because the air bag retains the gas until the driver comes into contact with it.