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Why a Bag of Groceries Can Flip Off the Passenger Airbag

Why a Bag of Groceries Can Flip Off the Passenger Airbag

In case you’ve ever set a bag of groceries or one thing of an analogous weight in your automobile’s entrance passenger seat and it precipitated an “airbag off” gentle to light up, it means your car has decided that no matter is using shotgun doesn’t warrant a frontal airbag. Extra particularly, sensors within the passenger-seat cushion have despatched suggestions to a management unit as a part of what’s generally known as an Occupant Classification System (OCS). It’s a tool that detects the presence or absence of somebody or one thing within the entrance passenger seat, and it’s present in most newer, U.S.-sold automobiles and vehicles.

You may thank the federal government, which beginning in 2003 started requiring superior airbags in all gentle passenger automobiles. That implies that they’ll inflate with much less power or not deploy in any respect, primarily based on the scale and weight of the occupant of the passenger seat. The reasoning behind this mandate is to avoid wasting youngsters or small grownup passengers from being injured or killed by the entrance airbag, which bursts open in about 1/20 of a second.

Kids beneath age 12 will not be alleged to experience within the entrance seat of any automobile or truck. It’s universally advisable by automakers and regulators that they experience within the rear seat, the place there’s much less likelihood of harm. However for cases by which you should have a small particular person—whether or not baby or grownup—up entrance, the OCS exists.

Whereas federal legislation requires automobiles and vehicles to have the techniques, it doesn’t embrace a standard weight threshold for deactivating the airbag. As an alternative, every automaker’s OCS should meet security efficiency standards for crash-test dummies representing a 12-month-old toddler, a three-year-old toddler, a six-year-old baby, and a Fifth-percentile lady, which is an individual with a top of 64 inches and a weight of 108 kilos. How that is all achieved is as much as every producer.


“At one time there have been all types of various schemes on the market,” stated Man Nusholtz, a senior supervisor within the experimental and computational mechanics division at Fiat Chrysler. Stress sensors, cameras, and lidar have all been used to detect car occupants. Now, many of the OCSs are composed of “load cells” to detect “native forces” on the seat, Nusholtz stated. “However what you must do is detect not solely the burden, however the best way the dummy sits within the seat,” he stated. “It’s important to accommodate a spectrum of various seating conditions.”

Utilizing knowledge from the sensors within the seat, algorithms keep in mind the burden of the occupant, the place the particular person is sitting within the seat, and whether or not or not a seatbelt is buckled. Although there isn’t any across-the-board weight threshold at which level the passenger airbags flip off, C/D requested a number of automakers at what level their techniques resolve to show off the passenger airbag.

Natalie Kumaratne of Honda surroundings and security public relations advised us the “airbag off” indicator comes on in its automobiles when weight sensors detect 65 kilos or much less on the seat. A Toyota spokesman stated the corporate has a “magic quantity” however declined to inform us what that’s, saying it’s “one thing that we’d not disclose.” And as FCA’s Nusholtz stated, a sure weight threshold is just one of a number of issues.

The information to understanding when your “airbag off” gentle may gentle up is commonly discovered within the car’s proprietor’s handbook. Take this chart discovered within the literature that comes with the 2016 Mazda CX-9, for instance:


And Ford is much more succinct in its proprietor’s handbook for the 2017 Escape:


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So, if the “airbag off” gentle in your automobile is glowing and also you’re unsure why, one of the best place to begin is the proprietor’s handbook. In case you’re nonetheless unsure what’s occurring with the sunshine, it’s most likely a good suggestion to take it to a mechanic. Typically, you’ll be able to stay worry-free by not having a toddler or small particular person experience within the entrance seat, if a again seat is offered. Higher nonetheless, keep away from crashes that lead to airbag deployment.

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