RICHARD AMBROSE: Airbags. The idea of using a giant balloon to cushion you if you crash, has been around since the 1950's. Yet, it wasn't until 1974 that General Motors offered the first commercial car, with a driver side air bag.
Today, all new American cars and 91% of all new European cars are fitted with airbags.
Your driver airbag works in a very similar way to a rocket. They both use solid fuel.
In your car this is found in the compartment behind the steering wheel. Like this. When it's ignited it's contained and the gases released inflate the airbag.
Where as with a rocket, the solid fuel is at the bottom. So when you ignite it, the uncontained release of energy propels the rocket skyward.
The gas blows up the airbag pretty quickly. So were going to film this test rig to show you just how fast it inflates.
That yellow weight up there simulates somebody's chest. Now, as it's dropped it will pass this sensor, which will activate the airbag, to inflate in time to cushion its fall.
Well Rick, that happened so quickly. What speed was that?
RICK BATE, TEST ENGINEER: The airbag's inflated in roughly 35 mili seconds. Which to scale it for you... It takes you approximately 200 mili seconds to blink.
RICHARD AMBROSE: Wow.
RICK BATE, TEST ENGINEER: Which is pretty quick.
RICHARD AMBROSE: Now that's why I didn't see it.
RICHARD AMBROSE: You don't need to worry about suddenly being hit by an airbag, because a sensor in your car continually measures acceleration and deceleration. It will only deploy the airbag when it senses a dramatic deceleration resulting from a sudden impact.
And the bags themselves are getting clever. They can now alter the amount they inflate according to the weight and position of the person. Which means they're less likely to give you a hard punch in the face.
Now check this jacket out. It can surround you in airbags. It's already being used by some of the police riders in Japan, Spain and Brazil. And the idea is that if you're on your motorbike and you get thrown off, this tag gets pulled, the jacket inflates and it can soften your fall. Darren if you could...
Now it improved your safety and it's pretty damn sexy too.
In today's cars airbags can be in the roof, in the side, in your seat. There are even airbags to put you in the right position before you hit another airbag. But wherever they are, an airbag will always react so quickly that if you blink, you'll miss it.