Among the 8 airbags found in the 2015 Ford Mustang will be a uniquely-designed passenger knee airbag. While knee airbags aren’t a new invention, it’s the packaging — which is smaller, lighter, and making for a roomier interior with increased comfort — that is noteworthy on the new pony.
The new airbag design features an inflatable plastic bladder that’s integrated into the glovebox door, providing front passenger knee protection similar to a conventional knee airbag mounted under the instrument panel. To make the new airbag a reality, Ford engineered developed and tested several innovative materials and construction techniques.
Unlike a traditional fabric airbag, the new system consists of a pliable, injection-molded plastic bladder sandwiched between the inner and outer glove box door panels. After a vehicle impact is detected by the crash sensor system and classified as applicable for airbag deployment, an inflator fills the bladder, extending the outer door panel of the glove box toward the front passenger’s legs. Once deployed, the outer door helps provide cushioning similar to a traditional knee airbag.
One of the benefits of having the airbag integrated into the glove box rather than installing it into the instrument panel is that it doesn’t have to travel as far as a conventional airbag, which deploys toward the floor before curving upward. An additional benefit is that the glovebox door distributes the impact load over a larger area than a traditional airbag, thereby being able to operate at a lower inflation pressure.
The final design is a full 65 percent lighter with an inflator that’s roughly 75 percent smaller than a conventional knee airbag, while providing comparable protection to the passenger. Plus, the new packaging is more subtle, with no visible seams or airbag cover, providing designers with more flexibility to move the dashboard closer to the windshield, thereby providing a more roomy cabin feel.
“We provide a high level of safety, quality and design for our customers and their passengers,” said Sean West, Ford restraints manager. “With this innovative airbag design, we have developed technology that provides protection for vehicle occupants while also reducing weight and enabling greater design flexibility.”
In developing the new Mustang passenger knee airbag, Ford has been granted 15 U.S. patents, and has filed more patent applications on top of that. The design of the airbag is an industry first, making the Mustang the first vehicle to have the unique technology. The automaker is considering other applications for the technology, which allows the airbag to be placed in new locations inside the vehicle while providing more freedom to vehicle designers.