Inflatable Steel Being Added to Cars?

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It is no surprise that technology is always evolving very quickly throughout various industries at all times. This is no different for the world of inflatables, which lend themselves to make more than just bounce houses and inflatable slides. As I have mentioned before in this blog, inflatables are used for a number of purposes in safety and medical fields. For instance, an older post discussed how hospitals were beginning to use inflatables as a way to transport obese patients safely and efficiently. Inflatables have also been used in car safety tests, including the addition of inflatable seatbelts for children. Now inflatables are being considered in both design and function of some vehicles that haven’t hit the market yet.

An article from Motor Trend explains the newest way that inflatables are being incorporated into vehicles at a Swedish airbag company:

“…[it} has been impossible to achieve…those delicate, easy-to-see-around roof pillars. Fat pillars lend a cartoonish, brutish mien to every retromobile out there. The solution comes from an unlikely source — Swedish airbag supplier Autoliv — and, in fact, it leverages airbag technology. But instead of inflating a cloth bag, it inflates a folded steel tube that is integral to the vehicle’s body structure. Up until now, the only way to make a car capable of supporting one and a half times its weight on the roof (as required in 2012) was by giving all the pillars a thick, beefy section.”

Inflatable steel, you say? Not exactly. Motor Trend says that when an accident is detected, the car would pop off its interior trim and inflate a section of pleated metal that protects passengers (and driver) in a collision. The pillar that inflates up would actually use the same method as an airbag, but with much more force:

“The tube is made of 0.06-inch-thick steel that’s typical automotive-grade strength (58 kilos/square inch yield–high-strength steel is too brittle for this type of application). It’s welded closed on each end and weighs 3.5 ounces, representing a 10-percent weight savings. Cost is little more than the price of the inflators.”
Inflation safety systems are also being implemented in some Mercedes’ models in a side door impact beam, but this technology is readily available as of yet. It’s just good to see that we are making cars safer (and better looking!) by using inflatable innovations!