Your car’s airbag is one of the major engineering accomplishments of the auto industry. In an accident, a whole host of processes must take place in sequence to keep your face from slamming into the steering wheel, and everything must happen in just a fraction of a second. [Steve] over at Make thought it would be a cool idea to discover what actually goes in to saving a life with an airbag and decided to build his own.
The electronics of the build consisted of an accelerometer and an Arduino. A lot of research, development, and experimentation has gone into the algorithms that trigger airbags, but [Steve] decided to keep things simple: when a sudden acceleration is detected, set off a small charge of black powder.
The airbag itself is ripstop nylon reinforced with canvas, contained in a small wooded box fitted with hinged doors. All these components are put on wheeled aluminum test rig, manned with a honeydew melon crash test dummy, and pulled into a short wall at a few miles per hour.
Despite [Steve] not putting hundreds of thousands of man hours into the development of his airbag – unlike the ones you’ll find in your steering column – his device actually worked pretty well. While not a complete success, he did manage to come up with something that both looks and acts like the familiar device that has saved countless lives.