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GM’s front-centre airbag. (General Motors)
GM’s front-centre airbag. (General Motors)

AJAC Awards: Best New Technology

New GM airbag wins tech award Add to ...

A new airbag developed by General Motors has been named the Best New Technology for 2013 by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada.

The company’s new front-centre airbag – which is in GM’s 2013 mid-size crossovers (Enclave, Acadia and Traverse) – deploys between the front seats in the event of side-impacts or rollovers, helping prevent injuries sustained when occupants come into contact with each other or a component of the vehicle.

The airbag narrowly beat out Mazda’s innovative i-ELOOP regenerative braking system for top honours. Third spot went to Subaru’s Eye-Sight system.

The Technology of the Year Award was established to recognize new and innovative technologies that provide real value to the consumer. Each year, a panel of AJAC members with technical or engineering backgrounds sort through submissions by manufacturers.

In the end, the life-saving potential of the new airbag and the extensive research and development that went into it won the day.

And lest you think engineers are a cold lot, it was fascinating to see how Scott Thomas, the senior GM staff engineer who has invested five years of his life in the development of the new airbag, became emotional when describing the first real-life deployment of one when a GM employee was blind-sided by a vehicle that had run a red light. Despite the violent impact and rollover, the person was able to crawl out of the mangled Buick.

The new centre-bag, which is incorporated within the driver seat , does not deploy during front or rear impacts but does so when sensors determine a side-impact of sufficient force. At that point, the 11-litre bag fills out to provide protection to the head and torso of both front seat occupants.

Scott showed numerous photos and videos of tests and real-life incidents in describing how this airbag prevents front-seat occupants from striking each other, the opposite door or a raised centre console. The new centre-airbag, unlike the others which are designed to deflate rapidly, remains filled longer to provide protection in rollover situations.

Mazda’s i-ELOOP( Intelligent Energy Loop) regenerative braking system garnered attention because it is such an innovative and simple alternative to the complex hybrid systems used elsewhere. It uses an electric double-layer capacitor carried in the engine compartment behind the left front wheel to convert the kinetic energy captured when the vehicle brakes or decelerates into electricity, storing and supplying it to power the vehicle’s electric components. In a conventional vehicle, as much as 10 per cent the engine’s output is required to generate the required electric power needed to operate everything from the fuel pump to the audio system to the windshield wipers. I-ELOOP was developed to reduce fuel consumption by generating power without burning fuel.

Subaru’s Eye-Sight system emerged atop GM’s front-and-rear automatic braking system, available on some 2013 Cadillac models, and Infiniti’s Backup Collision Intervention System, introduced on the new JX. All use a mixture or radar or cameras to help prevent running into other vehicles or objects, whether backing out of a parking space or in low-speed traffic situations.

Ford’s Hands-Free tailgate opens and closes when you pass your foot under the rear bumper on some trim levels of the Escape or C-Max.

GM’s FNC (Ferritic Nitro-Carbonizing) brake rotor treatment prevents rust and doubles the life and thus reduces the cost of replacing rotors. FNC rotors were introduced on the 2009 Cadillac DTS in 2009 and have resulted in a 50 per cent-80 per cent reduction in warranty replacement costs and incidence.

Honda’s lane-watch system, which utilizes a camera mounted in the passenger side mirror to display what lies within an 80-degree area to the side and rear of the vehicle. It’s available on the new Accord.

Mercedes Cross-wind Assist is being introduced on the 2013 GL-Class. It senses wind gusts and uses the brakes on one side of the vehicle to keep it on course.

Mercedes Magic Vision Control is an intricate windshield wiper system that sprays fluid through unevenly-spaced laser-cut holes on one side of a heated wiper blade. The system sprays only in the direction of the sweep and automatically adjusts the amount of fluid, using 50 per cent less fluid.

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