Agustin Jimenez
Technical Editor
August 25, 2015
Photos By: Courtesy of Ford

Just when you thought you had heard of every type of automotive safety feature up to this point, Ford lets the cat out of the bag about the first ever glove box airbag. That’s right, Ford has developed a world-first airbag that protects the knees while packaged within the glove box. The cool thing about the glove box airbag is that it doesn’t limit leg room for the front passenger while blending seamlessly into the interior design.

This revolutionary air bag design is the first to integrate within the glove box door via a special plastic airbag that does away with the need for a separate knee airbag, which also frees up some leg room for the front passenger. The airbag is made of a plastic bladder that is molded and sandwiched between the outer and inner glove box door surfaces. This is opposed to the standard textile fabric airbag that would generally take up a valuable space up front.

To give you an idea of the size of the airbag, it’s only 18.1 inches long by 11 inches wide and weighs 65 percent less than a conventional knee airbag while offering very comparable protection. In the event of a collision, a tiny gas generator inside the glove box door inflates the bladder in just 20 milliseconds, pushing the door exterior outwards to provide leg protection.

“This is a new way of thinking about airbags. We went back to the drawing board and in the course of a year went through hundreds of prototypes to get it just right,” said Ford restraints manager Sean West. “It was worth it. With this design we were able to combine the functions of two separate parts into one single part to save on space, weight and components; this also moved the instrument panel further forward, ensuring there was more room for the front passenger.”

“Our glove box airbag opens up a whole new world of possibilities for injection-molded plastic airbags. The glove box airbag could be just the beginning,” West added.

The all-new Ford Mustang is equipped with eight airbags as standard equipment and has been awarded the highest-possible safety standard by North American authorities. Naturally, Ford is now actively testing future uses of the weight-saving technology that employs a plastic bladder instead of a textile fabric, and has so far been granted 23 patents.