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 OhioCrash 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 Americasis 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 OhioBrian 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 OhioBefore 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 dummyHonda'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 Performancewww.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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New electric SUV

Honda teases its first EV

The Prologue will go on sale as a 2024 model.

Honda

Honda is nearing the unveiling of its first electric vehicle, the Prologue, and today the automaker gave us our first glimps of the new vehicle. It's just a sketch, but Honda did share some production details and information on its product roadmap.

Honda DealerHonda plans to sell half a million EVs by the end of the decade. Honda

Honda says the Prologue will be an adventure-ready SUV "capable of satisfying everyday driving and weekend getaways with a strong hint of the well-received Honda e in the front fascia." The SUV was developed in Honda's Design Studio in Los Angeles, and was designed with an eye on Honda's global EV models. Honda said it focused on aerodynamics and fine-tuning the body to reducelines and improve range.

The Japanese automaker developed the Prologue alongside GM, but it has other EVs coming to market by 2026. By 2030, Honda says it will release 30 new EVs globally with a production volume of two million units. The co-developed vehicle is the first, but the rest will be built on Honda e:Architecture. In 2027, the automaker will begin building and selling a line of affordable EVs using the architecture developed with General Motors. Honda says it plans to sell half a million EVs in North America by the end of hte decade.

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New minivan

Honda announces new Odyssey Sport

Sport is a new trim for the Odyssey minivan.

Honda

The Honda Odyssey may not be the most exciting vehicle in the world, but it's getting a new Sport model that at least makes it look the part. Honda will release the model for the 2023 model year, and the Odyssey line overall will be offered with a new Honda Service Pass, which includes two years of complimentary scheduled maintenance.

The Odyssey Sport slots into the Honda catalog between the EX-L and Touring trims. It comes with gloss-black exterior trim and black 19-inch wheels outside, and black leather with red stitching inside. The cabin comes with red accent lighting on the dash and in the footwells, and the roof pillars and headliner are both black. Under the hood, the Odyssey Sport gets the same 3.5-liter V6 from years past. It makes 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque, and comes paired with a ten=speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive.

2023 Honda Odyssey SportThe Sport comes with dark exterior trim and unique leather upholstery with red stitching inside. Honda

All Odyssey models come with Honda Sensing safety equipment, which includes adaptive cruise control and pedestrian detection. The 2023 van hasn't been crash-tested yet, but the 2022 model earned a Top Safety Pick + award, so it's likely the new model will be rated similarly.

Honda Service Pass is a new program for 2023+ Honda vehicles. It covers routine scheduled maintenance for up to two years or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first. Under the program, buyers get free oil changes, tire rotations, and multi-point inspections.

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