New idea in airbags: 'roof airbags' unveiled by TRW

TRW has unveiled a new concept in airbags, the "roof airbag." No, it's not an airbag intended to keep you in your seat during a rollover, though it does inflate from the roof of the car. It's simply a place to put the front-impact airbag somewhere other than the dash. And it's not just a concept but will, says TRW, be coming in at least one future model a major European car manufacturer's cars.

TRW Automotive, a major supplier of braking systems, steering systems, suspension systems, occupant safety systems (seat belts and airbags), electronics, engine components and much more to the automotive industry, has developed a new way to mount an airbag. Rather than the conventional dash mounted (or sometimes dashtop) airbag, TRW's new airbag system is mounted in the automobile's ceiling and inflates downward in front of the passenger.

According to TRW, the "new airbag can help to mitigate passenger injuries and can allow for improved interior design aesthetics, ergonomics and functionality while saving space in the instrument panel." In other words, the roof airbag can be safer that the conventional airbag while also making the interior look better and the controls easier to use. It would, for example, allow the glove box being placed somewhere other than shin height.

TRW claims that its bag in roof design also can reduce the cost of developing dashboards as there is no need for specific 'door' that opens with the airbag deployment.

Dirk Schultz, engineering director for TRW's Inflatable Restraint Systems said, "TRW's new roof airbag system is a unique development and studies have shown that such a technology provides enhanced styling flexibility for future vehicle interiors in combination with excellent restraint performance."

TRW said that the roof airbag has been in development "for several years," and "two years in close collaboration with a major European vehicle manufacturer." TRW didn't spill the beans on who that "major European vehicle manufacturer" is, but TRW did say that the company signed a "significant production contract." Indeed, the new airbag in roof system isn't pie in the sky.

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