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2021 Acura TLX to feature novel 'baseball mitt' airbag

Acura's new sport sedan features a new airbag designed to curb traumatic brain injuries among passengers.

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The impact (sorry for the pun) that airbags have had on vehicle safety and crash survivability cannot be overstated. Still, they're not perfect, and there are plenty of opportunities for the airbag/human interaction to go wrong.

Acura's engineers in Ohio decided that they could improve things, particularly for front-seat passengers. Their novel "baseball mitt" solution to the problem is actually surprisingly simple when you think about it, but it's cool, and may save a lot of lives in the company's new TLX sport sedan, the first model to get it.

Now, when we say baseball mitt, what we mean -- and what you'll see if you watch the above video -- is that rather than offering a single plane of impact that can cause the passenger's head to glance off or rotate, Acura's system adds two side panels to the main airbag. The goal? To help to keep the passenger's head contained in the event of an impact.

"This new Acura TLX is the latest example of our safety engineering team in Ohio pursuing important innovations to advance toward our goal of a safer and, ultimately, collision-free society," said Jim Keller, president of Honda R&D Americas, in a statement. "I'm very proud of how our engineers analyzed new brain injury research and then took action to achieve one of the most substantial advances in airbag design in decades."

That brain injury research that Keller mentions was done by the US Department of Transportation and used finite element analysis (FEA) to develop a set of criteria for determining the likelihood of traumatic brain injury during a crash. 

The best part of this new airbag stuff is that Acura and its technical partner on the project, Autoliv, are offering the tech to other manufacturers. Now it's unclear if they're doing the whole Volvo three-point seatbelts thing from the 1960s where they're making it available for free, but we do hope to see it adopted by other safety-focused manufacturers soon.

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