Developed with supplier Takata (with whom four pending patents are shared), this elaborately tethered bag forms a rigid tube in the shape of a figure-8, that’s tethered to angle toward the driver. It inflates in 26 milliseconds using a combination of pressurized argon and pyrotechnically generated gas, and stays inflated for several minutes to provide protection in a rollover or multiple-impact crash. Its main purpose is to cushion the driver’s head and torso from colliding with the center console, passenger seat or its occupant, or the intruded structure in a nasty pole-type hit, and to cushion the passenger from the driver.
Collision Warning on the Cheap
It’s not easy, and it gets particularly tricky in bad weather or at night (is that a close-up motorcycle, or a far-away ’55 Ford with one burned-out tail lamp?), but the system performed flawlessly on a demonstration drive. It illuminates a red warning signal high atop the center console near the base of the windshield, and sounding eight quick tones through the front stereo speakers for forward collision warning, and sounds lower tones from the speaker on whichever side of the car has strayed out of its lane.
Best of all, it seems unlikely to aggravate enthusiast drivers. The driver can set the warning/following distance warning to far, medium, or near settings, and even at the “far” setting, the tailgating/collision warnings appeared at what this aggressive driver deemed a mighty close distance. Also, the lane-departure only nags when the tire is on the line and the driver hasn’t signaled a lane change. Fair enough. Both systems can be independently switched off from the steering wheel, and the system remembers the selected following distance upon restart.
Additional features that may roll out in the near future include traffic sign recognition and automatic high-beam assist, though there’s no current plan to use it for adaptive cruise control. Those systems generally employ forward-looking radar (which currently costs from 2-5 times what the camera costs). The system was developed with Magna and Mobileye, and mounts inside the windshield behind the passenger side of the rear-view mirror, where its view is well cleared by the windshield wipers. Look for the option to appear first on the 2012 Chevy Equinox and GMC Acadia, and to spread quickly throughout the lineup