A Brief Car History on Airbags

Most of us don't even give the airbags in our vehicles a second thought because we rarely have to see them or use them. But how have airbags affected the automobile industry and society as a whole? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, airbags have spared approximately 40,000 lives from 1987 to 2012. As technology continues to improve airbags, this number will undoubtedly continue to grow. 


Who Invented It?

The airbag concept was initially created by Walter Linderer from Germany and patented in 1951. It wasn't even coined as an airbag back then, but it was instead called a safety cushion. Unfortunately, Linderer's design of inflating the airbag didn't work well enough to inflate it completely. Another poor quality of the airbag was that it required a signal from the driver to inflate and initiate a response.


Working off Linderer's approach, American John Hetrick began his design and patented it in 1953. He decided to venture out into this creation after he was in a car accident with his family. Hetrick also coined the term "airbag". Hetrick was in the Navy, so he had the idea of compressed air torpedoes in mind when making the new airbags. Even though his idea sparked interest in the automotive industry, the airbag was not adopted and used at the time. It wasn't until the late 1960s when Allen Breeced patented a product for a sensor that could better recognize a crash. The creation of Breed's device sped the airbag's deployment, making it seem more realistic to use. 


As airbags became more accepted in the 1970s, they were still seen as a substitute for seatbelts. However, automobile accidents were on the rise worldwide. As a result, people heavily emphasized wearing their seatbelts. And it wasn't until the 1980s and 1990s when governments stepped in to make laws that required manufacturers to put in airbags.


Today, there are multiple airbags in every vehicle, including side-impact airbags, to protect all possible passengers from collisions on the side of a car. There are also advancements in sensory technologies that adjust where and how the airbags in a vehicle inflate. Thanks to many technological advances, the risk of injury from airbags is far less now than before.


If your airbag light is lit on your dashboard, please bring your car to I-70 Auto Service for the proper repairs. Give us a call at (816) 656-2325 today for any concerns you may have with your car.