Check Your VIN

10 million vehicles recalled for new, but same, Takata airbag issues

A deployed airbag is seen in a 2001 Honda Accord at the LKQ Pick Your Part salvage yard on May 22, 2015 in Medley, Florida.

Photo by Getty Images

The latest round of Takata airbag recalls adds insult to injury. In a document issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the government acknowledged that the latest round of recalls is for approximately 10 million vehicles that have already been recalled and allegedly repaired.

How does this happen? It has come to light that during the initial rounds of the recall Takata replaced the old, dangerous inflators with new versions of the same thing with the same design and chemistry. Yes, you read that right.

Takata air bag recall Angelina Sujata (2nd L) tells the story of how she was injured three years ago by a defective Takata airbag during a news conference with (L-R) Rep. Diane DeGette (D-CO), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) outside the U.S. Capitol June 2, 2015 in Washington, DC. Photo by Getty Images

There are 14 U.S. brands impacted by the announcement including Audi, BMW, Honda, Daimler, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ferrari, General Motors, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota, and Volkswagen.

Some automakers got a jump on the report and have been working to re-recall their vehicles for months now.

According to the NHTSA, over 38 million vehicles have been repaired as part of the larger Takata recall event. NHTSA estimates that there are nearly 13 million defective parts still installed in vehicles as of this past November.

To find out if your model is impacted by the recall, visit the NHTSA website and enter your car's vehicle identification number (VIN).

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

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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Volvo, like other automakers, crash test their vehicles ahead of them making their way to dealership lots.

Photo courtesy of Volvo Car Corporation

Each year, an estimated 1.35 million people lose their lives in traffic accidents. Research by the World Health Organization shows that the risk of dying as part of a traffic incident is more than three times higher in developing countries than in developed countries.

Volvo Cars is calling on the United Nations to address the inequality. The company believes that the countries worldwide should promote safety belt usage by " introducing and enforcing seat-belt laws covering both front and rear seats." They also believe that the countries should develop infrastructure to separate motorized traffic from pedestrian and cyclist traffic.

" original_size="2500x1875" photo_credit="Photo courtesy of Volvo Car Corporation" alt="Volvo safety car test" expand="1"] Vehicles sold in the U.S. are extensively crash tested ahead of their debut on dealer lots.Photo courtesy of Volvo Car Corporation

"Global data shows that there is a significant inequality in road safety," said Malin Ekholm, head of the Volvo Cars Safety Centre. "Those safety gaps need to be addressed through technology, but also by creating and enhancing a global safety culture. We need to understand and address the variation in seat belt usage, while infrastructure should focus on improving the safety of vulnerable road users, pedestrians and cyclists."

The call to action has been announced as delegates from over 80 United Nations member states gather in Stockholm, Sweden to attend the 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety.

Volvo says that they are "keen to contribute to global road safety initiatives with its rich wealth of safety knowledge, as it has done for many decades in collaboration with governments, academia and regulators." This initiative has its roots in the 1959 introduction of the three-point safety belt, which the company took out an open patent on and promised not to enforce patent violations or charge others royalties to use.

In 2018 the rate of seat belt use in the U.S. was 89.6%, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Of the 37,133 people killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2017, 47% were not wearing seat belts. NHTSA research indicates that buckling up is the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself in a crash.

Only 105 of the world's countries have safety belt laws that cover front and rear seat occupants. There are 195 counties on Earth.

Lax safety standards are one reason that automakers sell vehicles in markets in Asia, Africa, and Europe that they don't sell in the U.S. Those regions tend to have less stringent regulations when it comes to required safety equipment, technology, and structural integrity.

Additionally, there is less cost involved in the production of vehicles with fewer safety features so they may be sold to customers in less wealthy nations for lower prices than vehicles in the U.S.

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