New bag in town: New ceiling-mounted airbag goes into production

TRW overhead mounted airbag

A new TRW ceiling-mounted airbag technology goes into production. TRW photo (click to enlarge)

There’s a new bag in town. TRW has a new idea in airbags and it’s going into production. The ceiling-mounted airbag will deploy from the windshield header to protect the front passenger instead of the conventional dash-mounted bag.

One of the problems with the conventional passenger-side front airbag goes back to the first concept of the inflatable “cushion,” back to the early Seventies when it was still known as a passive restraint system, an airbag that would completely replace seatbelts. The problem was that the airbag took up a lot of real estate on the dash. Airbags have become more compact after 40 years of development, as anyone who remembers the first steering wheel packs that looked like they had already inflated before they were.

Today’s airbags, despite being more compact, are still taking up room that could be used for something else other than a blank panel.

“Interior design requirements have evolved significantly over the last decade with some manufacturers looking for more instrument panel space for the latest multimedia technologies or a means of increasing storage, or are proposing more open and airy cockpit environments,” according to Dirk Schultz, engineering director for TRW’s Inflatable Restraint Systems.

“TRW’s new roof airbag system is a unique development and provides enhanced styling flexibility for future vehicle interior requirements in combination with excellent restraint performance.”

Citroen C4 Cactus

The Citroen C4 Cactus gets first application of new TRW ceiling-mounted airbag technology. (Citroen photo)

TRW says the roof airbag will be cheaper to design a car’s interior.  By eliminating the need to package a passenger airbag in the instrument panel, there is no need to design and test a specific “door” that opens with the airbag deployment. It’s also easy, according to TRW, to use in a wide range of vehicles.

Similar to the recently introduced and now ubiquitous side curtain airbags, but unlike the conventional dash mounted airbag, the ceiling-mounted air bag will deploy downward, from behind or beneath the top of the windshield. When inflating, the bag unfolds along the windshield in front of the seat occupant, rather than towards the passenger. TRW says the bag will work for “front seat passengers of varying shapes and sizes.”

Of course, the new windshield-header mounted airbag won’t replace seatbelts, which are the primary restraint system, not only for frontal and side impacts, but also to keep car occupants from being ejected from the car as it spins are rolls after impact.

The new windshield-header airbag sees its first use the new Citroen C4 Cactus. Citroen’s nonpresence in the U.S. market means the new airbag won’t be seen in any cars here in the immediate future, but for the future, the new ceiling-mounted airbag technology may already be in the works.