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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All-new SUV

2022 Acura MDX Review

The MDX is all-new for 2022.

Acura

Acura is an interesting company. Its vehicles have long been sort of an afterthought compared to Japanese luxury heavy-hitter Lexus, but the brand offers a sporty, upscale alternative to the plush rollers from elsewhere in the country. The MDX is Acura's flagship vehicle, and though it skipped the 2021 model year altogether, the vehicle that landed for 2022 is worth the wait.

I spent a week testing the 2022 MDX, putting it through its paces, first as a family SUV, and then as a sporty alternative to other traditional luxury options. I liked the previous MDX, but found its infotainment to be too complicated and its third-row seats to be too cramped. The SUV's latest iteration addresses those problems and more – at least partially. Let's take a look at what's what.

2022 Acura MDX Features and Driving Impressions

The MDX starts at just under $47,000, and reaches just over $60,000 in its top Advance Package. My test vehicle landed at the top end of that spectrum, but the base MDX's list of features will likely be enough to make most people happy. The standard 12.3-inch infotainment screen, digital gauge cluster, extensive advanced safety equipment, and spacious interior make the entry-level MDX quite the compelling vehicle.


2022 Acura MDX The 2022 MDX features sleek styling.Acura


Though we're looking at a brand-new SUV here, Acura opted to leave the previous model's engine in place. The tried-and-true 3.5-liter V6 makes 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque, but now comes with an impossibly smooth ten-speed automatic transmission instead of the nine-speed seen in 2020's MDX. The engine, while unimpressive on paper, is strong enough to pull the three-row MDX to 60 mph from a standstill in 6.4 seconds – quicker than I, or anyone else, should hope to go with a family in tow. Additionally, the engine is so smooth and so well in tune with the MDX's chassis that it's impossible to want for more. Of course, the world being what it is, Acura will give you more. If you're willing to wait, the MDX Type S will hit the streets later in 2021 with 355 horsepower from a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6.

It's easy to assume that the 2022 MDX is just another frumpy family hauler, but that's not entirely the case. Acura gave the vehicle an all-new chassis that the brand says is actually a light truck platform that has been tuned to target the driving dynamics of a sports sedan. That, combined with a double wishbone front suspension and a multilink rear suspension system, help the new MDX handle like a much smaller vehicle while retaining a family-friendly ride in most circumstances. Steering is noticeably assisted, but not to the point of feeling too light or disconnected.

2022 MDX Technology

Acura ditched the overwhelming dual-screen infotainment setup seen in previous MDX models for a single screen and touchpad controller – similar to the system that comes in the smaller RDX. Though it's easier to use than the screen-on-screen system, the touchpad takes longer to learn than it should. Over time, however, it's likely to become more intuitive than I could give it credit for in a short week of testing. The 12.3-inch unit runs wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and comes with a Wi-Fi hotspot, Amazon Alexa capabilities, and Bluetooth. A Qi wireless charging pad is standard as well, but depending on how you like to charge your smartphone you might end up with a confusing pairing situation. My preference is to charge with a cable, which caused wireless Apple CarPlay to disconnect my iPhone in favor of a wired connection, but this didn't happen all the time. The sometimes-connected-sometimes-not situation was frustrating and confusing, so it's probably best to charge with the wireless pad if you choose to use wireless CarPlay.


2022 Acura MDX The MDX's interior is an extremely nice place to spend time.Acura


My tester's Advance Package meant that I had access to even more tech. There was a 10.5-inch head-up display, an ELS Studio 3D premium audio system with 16 speakers, and charging ports in the second and third rows. When it comes to safety tech, however, everyone gets in on the party. Acura includes a load of advanced safety features as standard gear on the 2022 MDX, which includes forward collision warnings, collision mitigation braking, lane departure warnings, lane keep assist, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control, traffic jam assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, and traffic sign recognition.

2022 MDX Safety

That list of features and stellar crash test scores helped the MDX achieve a Top Safety Pick + designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The agency scored the MDX Good in all crashworthiness categories and Superior in both vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian crash prevention with the standard safety systems.


2022 Acura MDX The MDX is a solid premium family hauler.Acura


The MDX was already a compelling vehicle with great standard features and attractive styling, and the updates have only made the Acura's case stronger. The new ten-speed automatic transmission and chassis tuning have made the family-hauler an engaging vehicle to drive, but haven't in any way compromised its ability to do the boring "SUV stuff" well. On top of that, the MDX matches or beats many of its competitors on fuel economy, returning up to 26 mpg on the highway, and let's not forget about safety scores, which for any family should be top of mind.


2022 Acura MDX The MDX is sporty but refined.Acura

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Friday auction find

Is this the cleanest Honda Prelude left?

This 22-year-old Honda looks almost new.

Cars and Bids

It's Friday, which means we're rounding out the week by obsessing over sales listings and car auctions. It's a good time to be looking, if only from a distance, because there are cars like this 1999 Honda Prelude Type-SH just waiting for us to take them home.

We hear it all the time, but this is likely one of the cleanest remaining fifth-generation Preludes around today. No modifications have been performed, which alone makes this car rare, but the mileage takes the exclusivity a step further. With just 28,700 miles on the clock, this Prelude is nearly new.

The Prelude's 2.2-liter inline-four made 200 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque when new, and this one's mileage is low enough that those numbers are likely still close to accurate. A five-speed manual is on board here, and despite the fact that the car is front-wheel drive, Honda made numerous upgrades to the car that gave it sharp handling.


1999 Honda Prelude Type SH Manual transmission and patterned cloth seats. Does it get much better?Cars and Bids


The Prelude Type-SH was better than its standard counterpart in nearly every measurable way. It rode on 16-inch alloy wheels and lowered suspension that set it an inch lower than the normal car. It also features an active torque transfer system, which could transfer as much as 80 percent of drive power to the outside wheel during cornering. Independent front and rear suspension rounded out the package to make the Prelude Type-SH a quick and nimble front-drive car.

It's easy to get wrapped up in the nostalgia of these cars. After all, for many of us they bring back fond memories of our school years, when cars like the Prelude were new and unobtainable by most young drivers. Even so, it's important to remember that a 20-plus-year-old Honda won't provide a modern driving experience and won't be as sharp as you probably think it will. That's not enough to stop many people (us included) from wanting one, but it's worth noting.


1999 Honda Prelude Type SH The Type SH features many upgrades over the standard Prelude.Cars and Bids

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