Skip to main content

Honda Earns Safety Award From U.S Regulators For New Airbag Technology

A new airbag design has earned a Honda/Acura engineer a prestigious award.

OK, airbags are not sexy. But living through a crash is always a big plus, and Honda deserves a bit of a pat on the back for a new airbag designed to decrease the chance of serious brain injury.

This past month, Honda safety engineer Eric Heitkamp was recognized with the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. Department of Transportation for his work in leading the creation of a safer front passenger airbag design. Heitkamp was presented the U.S. Government Award for Safety Engineering Excellence at the 2023 Enhanced Safety of Vehicles (ESV) conference held in Yokohama, Japan. This is not a bench-top design proposal. Rather, the new passenger front airbag technology is now standard equipment in the Acura MDX, Acura TLX and Honda Pilot.

The new front passenger airbag technology is designed to help manage lateral collision forces that can cause an occupant's head to rotate at high velocity and slide off a conventional airbag. Honda’s new airbag incorporates new research measuring brain injuries in vehicle collisions, including a study of brain injuries led by scientists at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Rather than a single inflatable chamber of conventional front passenger airbag systems, the new airbag decelerates the occupant's head with less force while also directing it inward between two inflated chambers to cradle and restrain the head. The new passenger front airbag uses four major components including a center chamber along with two outward-projecting side chambers that create a wide base across the dash and the uninflated “sail panel" that stretches between the two side chambers.

The Enhanced Safety of Vehicles (ESV) conference is held every two years. It is regarded as the most-prominent international automotive safety technical event. This is the 2nd consecutive excellence award won by a U.S.-based Honda engineer.

Image of airbag courtesy of Honda.

John Goreham is an experienced New England Motor Press Association member and expert vehicle tester. John completed an engineering program with a focus on electric vehicles, followed by two decades of work in high-tech, biopharma, and the automotive supply chain before becoming a news contributor. In addition to his ten years of work at Torque News, John has published thousands of articles and reviews at American news outlets. He is known for offering unfiltered opinions on vehicle topics. You can follow John on Twitter, and TikTok @ToknCars, and view his credentials at Linkedin