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Old 11-15-2012, 10:48 PM   #7
suss6052
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Quick summary per wikipedia, might not be 100% accurate, but its a good primer.

Quote:
Triggering conditions


Some cars provide the option to turn off airbags.
Airbags are designed to deploy in frontal and near-frontal collisions more severe than a threshold defined by the regulations governing vehicle construction in whatever particular market the vehicle is intended for: U.S. regulations require deployment in crashes at least equivalent in deceleration to a 23 km/h (14 mph) barrier collision, or similarly, striking a parked car of similar size across the full front of each vehicle at about twice the speed. International regulations are performance based, rather than technology-based, so airbag deployment threshold is a function of overall vehicle design.
Unlike crash tests into barriers, real-world crashes typically occur at angles other than directly into the front of the vehicle, and the crash forces usually are not evenly distributed across the front of the vehicle. Consequently, the relative speed between a striking and struck vehicle required to deploy the airbag in a real-world crash can be much higher than an equivalent barrier crash. Because airbag sensors measure deceleration, vehicle speed is not a good indicator of whether an airbag should have deployed. Airbags can deploy due to the vehicle's undercarriage striking a low object protruding above the roadway due to the resulting deceleration.
The airbag sensor is a MEMS accelerometer, which is a small integrated circuit with integrated micro mechanical elements. The microscopic mechanical element moves in response to rapid deceleration, and this motion causes a change in capacitance, which is detected by the electronics on the chip that then sends a signal to fire the airbag. The most common MEMS accelerometer in use is the ADXL-50 by Analog Devices, but there are other MEMS manufacturers as well.
Initial attempts using mercury switches did not work well. Before MEMS, the primary system used to deploy airbags was called a "rolamite". A rolamite is a mechanical device, consisting of a roller suspended within a tensioned band. As a result of the particular geometry and material properties used, the roller is free to translate with little friction or hysteresis. This device was developed at Sandia National Laboratories. The rolamite, and similar macro-mechanical devices were used in airbags until the mid-1990s when they were universally replaced with MEMS.
Nearly all airbags are designed to automatically deploy in the event of a vehicle fire when temperatures reach 150-200 C (300-400 F). This safety feature, often termed auto-ignition, helps to ensure that such temperatures do not cause an explosion of the entire airbag module.
Today, airbag triggering algorithms are becoming much more complex. They try to reduce unnecessary deployments and to adapt the deployment speed to the crash conditions. The algorithms are considered valuable intellectual property. Experimental algorithms may take into account such factors as the weight of the occupant, the seat location, seatbelt use, and even attempt to determine if a baby seat is present.
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