At a ‘drifting’ demonstration at a Michigan Airstrip the side airbags of a Chevrolet Camaro spontaneously deployed, slightly burning the passenger.
The Chevrolet Camaro was driven by Paul Beiswenger who showed no signs of injury after the side-curtain airbags spontaneous deployed. But the woman sitting next to him in the passenger seat suffered a minor burn on her arm.
Most airbags are inflated using hot gas generated by a chemical process. Using hot gas allows the required pressure to be obtained with a smaller mass of gas than would be the case using lower temperatures. However, the hot gas can pose a risk of thermal burns if it comes in contact with the skin during deployment and occupant interaction.
The reason why these airbags deployed is currently unclear, but perhaps it had something to do with the accelerometers and sensors used for the airbags. GM spokesman Alan Adler responded to the incident:
It is unusual to have this occur. However, it is possible for a driver to create conditions where the air bag sensors believe a rollover is imminent. This can lead to an unwanted air bag deployment. On rollover side curtain bags, the vehicle’s rollover sensing system is looking for a certain set of factors that “predict” a vehicle is going to roll over. The airbag system cannot wait until it is too late to deploy the airbags. Drifting or creating a situation that has a certain combination of speed and vehicle angle can lead to an unwanted air bag deployment.
Check out the video below of this incident with the spontaneous airbags!