Innovation

Honda's new wraparound airbag is one small part of their commitment to safety innovation

Honda's new airbag is designed like a baseball mitt.

Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

"Safety for Everyone" the banners read inside Honda's R&D facility in Marysville, Ohio. Whether they're evolving hood creases to absorb impacts different or designing a stronger chassis, safety is in focus for design and engineering teams responsible for innovating Honda and Acura products. It was at this facility last August that Honda revealed its newest safety innovation to the press for the first time - a baseball mitt-like airbag.

Honda has been one of the companies hardest hit by the Takara airbag recall. The nearly decade-long saga is finally in its last chapter and, to close it out, the automaker is taking the bull by the horns developing their own airbag from initial concept to production.

Honda new airbag tech R&D Americas Ohio Crash testing is vital but the time it takes to reset between tests is cumbersome so companies are relying more and more on computer simulations.Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

Honda Research & Development Americas is the largest facility of its kind outside of Japan. It is 1.6 million square feet of workspace for over 1,600 employees. It's a place that doesn't just innovate the minutiae. They've been designing vehicles from the ground up since starting work on the 1991 Honda Accord Wagon. That work continues through the Honda Passport and forthcoming redesigned Acura MDX.

The 2001 Honda Civic Coupe was designed there and become one of the first two vehicles to earn a five-star Euro NCAP rating in front and side crash testing.

At the facility, the company's efforts aren't just with passive safety systems. Honda is on the path to zero injuries as a result of a collision.

Walking into the large cubicle-riddled workspace where product designers and engineers sit within the facility, it's clear to see that the human factor plays a role. Memory books are filled in photos and letters from crash victims who have had their lives saved because of innovation, reminding workers that their jobs are helping people the world over.

Honda new airbag tech R&D Americas Ohio Brian Bautsch, manager of automotive crash safety at Honda R&D Americas, holds one of the company's scrapbooks that is full of letters from grateful customers.Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

Honda has the ability to crash test cars on-site, however the process is expensive and there is a long wait time between sled tests. The process is also not environmentally friendly.

Instead of continually running crash tests for every possible design tweak, the company is able to digitally simulate crashes using computers. This allows engineers to have the ability to strip back layers of design and isolate parts of the vehicle to see how speed, impact, direction, and condition all are effected during a crash.

The company does approximately 30,000 simulations during a vehicle's development. That has created 220 TB of storage data. How much is that? Take the amount of data that is in every book ever published and multiply it by four.

This has changed the product development cycle from design, then simulation then mule crash testing then mass production to design then simulation then mass production.

Honda new airbag tech R&D Americas Ohio Before Honda crash tests using their sled, they're able to simulate the same test thousands of times using computers.Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

That's not to say that Honda isn't crash testing vehicles. The company has a fleet of 48 full-scale crash test dummies that are sized for children and adults with different models representing the typical adult female and male forms.

Different types of dummies and different generations of those test subjects are used depending on what the team is trying to find out. One even has a water bladder to replicate the density of a human for vehicle-to-pedestrian testing.

Safety technicians and engineers measure the responses of the dummies during a variety of scenarios in four ways: head drop, neck pendulum, torso impact, and knee impact.

It isn't just the traditional features of the vehicle that have to be taken into account. The impact of an airbag deployment during a collision can injure as well as prevent more serious injuries. It's all about the way the bag deploys and contacts the passenger. It's a split-second interaction that humans generally do not have time to properly situate themselves for.

Honda new airbag tech R&D Americas Ohio test dummy Honda's test dummy fleet features models in a variety of shapes and sizes.Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

That's where Honda's new airbag style comes in. It's easiest to think of as a pillow with sides and a minimalistic center section - a catcher's mitt-like style that wraps around the sides of the head of the passenger disallowing neck twisting or pendulum motion.

In testing shown during a demonstration in August, just after a testing sled was crashed, the airbag deployed, wrapping around the test dummy from about the shoulders up for a split second- just long enough to minimize the effect of injuries like whiplash and prevent debris from the injury from making contact with the face. The dummy's body's reaction was far less severe than when an airbag as traditionally thought of deploys as the result of a collision.

This new airbag is the first real innovation in airbag technology in over a decade. Holding true to their motto that safety is for everyone, Honda is making the airbag technology available by partnering with automotive safety supplier Autoliv and not holding exclusivity over the product.

2021 TLX Advances Acura’s Commitment to Safety Performance www.youtube.com

The new airbag will makes its debut inside the 2021 Acura TLX. It's reasonable to assume that the forthcoming next-gen Acura MDX will have the same technology.

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The Integra returns next year as a 2023 model.

Acura

In the last couple years, we've seen a few big-name nostalgic automotive nameplates return to the market. There was the Land Rover Defender and more recently the Ford Bronco. Now, it's Acura's turn to stroll down memory lane, as it gears up for the release of the fifth-generation 2023 Integra. The car will return in 2022 as a four-door with a liftback, and most importantly, it gets plenty of go-fast bits in the places that matter.

2023 Acura Integra While it's true that the Integra looks like other Acura sedans, it's not an indication of how it will drive. Acura

Before we go too far: Yes, the Integra looks like the ILX and the TLX sedans, and yes, it has four doors. Remember that the first-, second-, and third-generation cars were available with four doors. It wasn't until the Acura RSX (sold as the Integra in Japan and Australia) that the car shaved two doors and became exclusively a two-door hatchback. So, while the look may be disappointing to some, it's not out of place.

2023 Acura Integra The new Integra will come with a limited-slip differential and an optional manual gearbox.

All the specs are here, too. The 2023 Integra will get a high-output 1.5-liter engine, a limited slip differential, and an available six-speed manual gearbox. If that isn't the recipe for a fun front-drive enthusiast car, we don't know what is. The prototype rides on matte-finish 19-inch wheels and comes with Brembo high-performance brakes.

2023 Acura Integra Acura will release more details closer to the car's launch in 2022. Acura

Acura says that the 2023 Integra will mark the car's first time being built in the United States, and notes that the car will enter production at its Marysville Auto Plant in Ohio. The car will be formally introduced in the first half of 2022, so we'll have to wait until then for detailed specs and pricing information. The good news, however, is that Acura says the car will start around $30,000, making it accessible to a wide swath of the car buying public.

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The new Si gets many improvements over the standard Civic.

Honda

The 2022 Civic and Civic Hatchback are just starting to hit our streets, but Honda's already moved on to higher performance versions of the car. The automaker just announced the Civic Si, which lands between the standard cars and the red-hot Type R in the Civic lineup.

2022 Honda Civic Si The Si's manual transmission gets rev-matching from the Civic Type R.Honda

The 2022 Civic Si gets a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 200 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque. The VTEC unit has been updated with broader power curves and better output at the top of the rev range. It's paired exclusively with a six-speed manual transmission that features the handy rev-matching feature from the Civic Type R. The system can detect downshifts and blips the throttle to perfectly align engine revs with the shift.

Honda tightened up the new Si's body with an 8 percent bump in torsional rigidity and a 13 percent increase in bending rigidity over the previous model. The 2022 Civic Si also rides on a longer wheelbase and has a wider rear track for better stability. Honda says that at 107.7 inches, the Si has the longest wheelbase in its class, which should give the car a stable and comfortable ride.

2022 Honda Civic Si The 2022 Civic Si's interior is clean and sporty. Honda

The Si's cabin borrows heavily from the standard Civic, but the sporty car gets more aggressive front sport seats with stronger bolstering and better thigh and shoulder supports. Honda raised the seats' bottom cushion by half an inch at the front for better thigh support. A 9-inch touchscreen display is standard that runs wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A 12-speaker Bose stereo with Centerpoint 2 tech and SurroundStage digital signal processing are also standard.

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