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Inflatable Car Interior

No Airbags - Everything is an Airbag!
  (+7, -1)
(+7, -1)
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We've all heard reports of how airbags have injured and killed people, due primarily to the speed at which they inflate. Why not eliminate the airbags entirely?

I say make most of the surfaces of the car interior out of pre-inflated bags. Even the seats can be inflated.

Before you go dismissing this idea as ludicrous, thinking of cheap shitty little air mattresses that go flat the same day you buy them, and of that cheesy looking inflatable furniture, think again about the possibilities here. [BTW, I am serious about this idea.]

Pneumatic systems have been developed that use what amounts to a bicycle tire innertube to actuate artificial limbs. Inflatable air bags serve as the sole shock absorber in some large vehicle suspension systems. What these show is that inflatable devices can be very robust. Oh, and don't forget the air bed (Select Comfort) that's advertised on TV.

Using the right topography [is that correct - I mean "shape-ography," you know], inflatables can become very strong and rigid. It would therefore be possible to construct a car seat that would be completely collapsible when deflated, yet provide ample support when inflated.

Some of the inflatable features could be user-adjustable, so that if you're alone in the car, you can leave the passenger seat deflated for more cargo room.

Alternately, the door panels and seat backs in the rear area of a sedan could be over-inflated to secure fragile cargo.

And, at least with the overabundance of power available in internal combustion vehicles, the cars would have automatic inflation pumps that keep proper/desired pressure in all systems.

Added bonus: If you accidentally drive your car into a body of water, it might actually float, or at least it would sink more slowly.
quarterbaker, Dec 19 2001


       they all like it but will remain anonymous
po, Dec 19 2001

       Inflatable padding feels safe and comfortable. But this wouldn't help with head-on collisions, since you couldn't have a bag between the driver and the steering wheel, or between your face and the windshield. It would also need much bigger cars to give you the same amount of room. I'm also not sure if airbags offer better protection than steel crumple zones.
pottedstu, Dec 19 2001

       pottedstu -

bigger cars - No! Car seats would be the same size, dashboard same size, etc. They would be made of inflated material, though, and wouldn't need support structure like metal frames and so forth.

Even the steering wheel could be made inflatable. It would have to be very, very rigid, of course, but that's do-able. So instead of a rapid inflation upon impact, it would have to have a quick release valve that opens on impact. So maybe the inflatable steering wheel is pushing it, but it would be worth trying.

Crumple zones are designed into the frame and body. This idea wouldn't affect them at all.

I imagine a car interior that is made like this would look NO DIFFERENT from a "normal" interior. So, from an overall auto design perspective, nothing else about the car would have to change.

Thanks for the input.
quarterbaker, Dec 19 2001

       If the inflatables are 'very strong and rigid', they won't make very good padding, and you're right back where you started.
StarChaser, Dec 20 2001

       Just don't drop your cigarette.
phoenix, Dec 20 2001

       And keep your friends from putting their muddy shoes up on the dash.
RobGraham, Dec 21 2001

       Yep. No cleats.
phoenix, Dec 21 2001

       Maybe this technology could be extended (inflated?) to work for women requiring breast augmentation. They could then use different levels of inflation for different social situations; cocktail setting would be 3/4 inflated, early morning would be 1/4 pressure, and Saturday evenings would, of course, be 100% - or 105% as some "overboost" would be permitted for short durations   

       Users would, of course, be safer in any accident as their airbags would be pre-inflated, thus making them safer drivers. Combine this with run-flat technology and you're on to a winner!
bolide, Jan 22 2002

       If your vehicle collides with something else, what is fundamentally needed is crushable space between the driver/front passenger and the front of the vehicle. While improvements in seatbelts etc. can improve things, there is no way someone's body can be decellerated from 55mph to 0mph in the space of 3 feet without it hurting rather a lot.   

       If your vehicle is hit from somewhere other than the front, you need crushable space between the point of impact and the nearest passenger. Again, vehicles' restraint systems aren't optimal but there's a definite limit to how safe a vehicle can be for any given amount of crushable space.
supercat, Jan 23 2002


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