According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), deaths of at least 130 children and small adults have been attributed to the speed and force of inflation of passenger-side air bags.
Automakers and regulators agree that smart air bag systems are the solution. Smart air bag systems are those that can detect not only the presence of a seat occupant, but also the size and positioning of the seat occupant. This data is used to tailor the speed of the air bag deployment to the seat occupancy conditions at the time of impact. Reliable analog seat sensors such as the Bend Sensor® technology are a key component of this system.
In November and December 1997, the Lear Corporation showcased Bend Sensor® seat mats for use in smart airbag systems in Germany, France and Spain. Other European corporations have since expressed interest in the seat sensor applications. General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, TRW, Lear, Takata, Magna, Allied Signal, Autoliv, Johnson Controls, Siemens, and Delphi have asked Flexpoint to demonstrate its Bend Sensor® technology in seat occupant detection applications. Response has been positive.
The sensor can distinguish between an infant car seat and an adult passenger and deactivate an air bag when a person under 66 pounds or a car seat is in the seat. The market opportunity is tremendous, considering 15,000,000 vehicles are sold annually in North America and 55,000,000 worldwide.