Plastic Air Bags saving two occupants


Safety advances in today’s materials save countless lives. Air bags, windshields, windows, sunroofs and impact and energy absorption innovations reduce vehicle fatalities. Plastic front-end modules, modular composite seats and energy absorbing bumpers are just a few of the advancements that help save lives every year.


  • Inflatable Seatbelt
    Plastic air bag deploying from seat belt.

Airbags are one of the most important safety innovations of recent decades (IIHS). They save lives.

Airbags reduce driver fatalities in frontal crashes by 29 percent. An SUV driver with side airbags can reduce risk of death by 52 percent. (IIHS)

A new seat belt contains an inflatable airbag sewn inside! Special plastic webbing in the shoulder portion hides an inflatable airbag. The airbag bursts out across the chest area, and stays inflated for 6 seconds to protect for multiple crash modes.


Plastic honeycomb floor rocker reinforcement

Plastic composite structures can help lightweight vehicles while preserving safety features. During a vehicle crash, engineers want the structure to crush in a gradual, predictable way. Automotive materials should absorb, not transfer, the “impact energy” to humans. The industry calls this a “controlled crush.”

Fiber-reinforced polymer composites have been found to absorb four times the crush energy of steel. The B-pillar is the support post that connects a vehicle’s roof to its body at the rear of the front occupant door that provides the major source of resistance to occupancy compartment intrusion during a side-impact collision.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently funded a study to evaluate a composite intensive B-pillar design for vehicle crash safety and weight savings. This study demonstrated that the carbon fiber thermoplastic B-pillar offered 60 percent weight savings over the metallic baseline and satisfied the side-impact crash requirements. Also, the dynamic impact and crush response of the B-pillar was successfully modeled using computational tools.

Energy Absorbing Collapsible Glove Box Bin

The Society of Plastics Engineers cites the 2018 Ford Expedition for an energy absorbing collapsible glove box. The new design collapses during impact to help prevent severe femur loads and adaptable to other vehicle lines to reduce high femur load and assist in achieving a 5-star crash rating. (Another example is this addition to front seat safety.)

Plastics are helping save lives during pedestrian impacts too. Polycarbonate-blend bumpers help protect passengers in collisions. Plastics also enable faster deployment for greater pedestrian protection in Ford vehicles through a flexible pedestrian-protection crash direct-mounted sensor bracket injection molded in plastic.

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Windshields, Windows & Sunroofs

Window Glazing System

North American windshields come as a multi-layer unit. Picture a thin layer of plastic between two thinner sheets of glass. The combination can be  thinner, lighter and stronger than tempered glass alone. The tear-resistant plastic layer helps prevent occupant ejection. In fact, National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates plastic inner layers help prevent over 300 fatalities a year (page 266).

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