Smart Airbags Coming, Regardless

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has declined to change a
regulation mandating that 20 percent of 2004 models have airbags with so-called “smart”
controls that electronically adjust during deployment to match the size and weight of
passengers. This despite warnings from automakers and suppliers that the new airbags are
not as reliable as conventional ones. Smart airbags were designed to prevent fatalities
inflicted by the conventional bags on children and small adults. Automakers are concerned
that the smart airbags can fail to deploy if small adults are seated, or may mistakenly
deploy because of the weight of occupied child seats or extra tension in safety belts.

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