Volvo has always been at the forefront of safety technology, having developed a slew of features that other major car manufacturers have since copied (the three-point safety belt, safety glass, and the first frontal air bag, to name a few). Now it seems as if the company is thinking even further outside the box by testing the world’s first pedestrian airbag system on the 2013 Volvo V40.

The five-passenger hatchback vehicle made its debut at the Geneva Motor Show. Its front bumper contains sensors that can register contact between the car and a passerby such as a pedestrian or cyclist. According to Gizmag, when an impact is registered, the piece of the hood closest to the windshield releases and becomes elevated by an airbag deployment.

Here’s a video of the V40’s pedestrian airbag system in action:

The airbag will help protect pedestrians’ heads against the windshield and surrounding metal frame. Volvo is confident the system can save lives in 85% of accidents where a pedestrian would have otherwise been killed from being struck by a car.

Here’s how the technology works according to the Daily Mail:

“It works through a series of sensors fitted to the front bumper that detect how hard an object is in a crash. If the object is recorded as flexible, such as a human limb, and the car is travelling between 12mph and 31mph, under the speed limit for most urban roads, then an airbag bursts through the [hood] of the car and covers the windscreen. Thomas Broberg, Volvo’s senior safety adviser, said: ‘We believe this can substantially reduce the number of serious injuries sustained by pedestrians. It was necessary as part of our vision that by 2020 nobody should be killed or injured by a Volvo.’”

The V40 will also have an automatic braking system that can reduce low-speed impacts that can occur when the driver is distracted:

“The cars can also be fitted with a pedestrian detector system that [recognizes] when a person is ahead in the road or about to step out. It sounds an alarm to alert the driver and automatically puts on the brakes if a crash is unavoidable.”

Right now the technology can’t protect children shorter than 2 ft, 7 inches, but it’s still a huge step in the right direction. The airbag and automatic braking system combined could greatly reduce pedestrian fatalities and pave the way for other car manufacturers to follow suit in an effort to increase driver, passenger, and pedestrian safety.


Andy Gillin

Andy Gillin received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California at Berkeley and his law degree from the University of Chicago. He is the managing partner of GJEL Accident Attorneys and has written and lectured in the field of plaintiffs’ personal injury law for numerous organizations. Andy is a highly recognized wrongful death lawyer in California.