Flexible venting technology used in the new airbag, a smart safety advance to an under-$20,000 car.
The airbag is one of the great improvements to automotive safety. Now automakers are finding new places to put them—and new ways to build them. The best part is that this high-tech safety equipment is found on cars at every price point. The 2013 Chevrolet Cruze, a popularly priced compact sedan, now has a flexible vented airbag on the driver’s side. General Motors says it is more efficient at protecting the driver in a crash. The new airbag, which GM claims as an industry first, is on all North-America-market Cruzes as a standard feature. What’s great about this new airbag is that it can handle both low-speed and high-speed crashes with the same inflator. That’s a change from the traditional “dual stage” airbag that handles the two types of accidents with separate inflators—or the older single-stage airbags that could open too quickly in a lower-speed crash. The flexible airbag is lighter and more compact, too. The airbag’s flexible vent cuts the risk of driver injury from the inflation of the airbag itself, GM says. This has been a major downside of front airbags in the past. The flexible vent uses the driver’s forward momentum in a crash to push the air out and away, as shown in the diagram above. The new “smart” airbag was co-developed by GM and safety restraint maker Takata. They’re the same team that came up with the new front center airbag on the Chevrolet Traverse. This is great news for car buyers on a budget. It’s increasingly possible to get the very latest safety features on a car that is at the lower end of the cost spectrum. The 2013 Chevrolet Cruze, with its ten airbags and its five-star overall score in government crash testing, is priced starting at $17,275 including destination. More: If you like the sound of high tech on lower-priced cars, check out our video here.