The massive Takata Corp. airbag recall has put these safety devices in the spotlight. Questions are beginning to surface about whether airbags were designed to stand the test of time, or if they are the equivalent of ticking time bombs in Americans' steering wheels and dashboards.
As we have discussed before in this blog, nearly a dozen automakers have issued recalls of vehicles equipped with Takata airbags, after a series of incidents where an airbag burst with too much force and sent shrapnel flying into drivers or passengers. More than 40 million vehicles have been recalled so far, including about 32 million in the U.S. alone.
Now, NBC News reports, federal regulators are wondering if airbags in older vehicles may also begin to fail. The head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said recently that his agency is investigating whether aging airbags could be a safety hazard.
Ever since automakers have been required to include airbags in the mid-1990s, most companies have included pyrotechnic inflators to cause the bags to inflate when a car crash occurs. Takata was among those that used pyrotechnic inflators, as opposed to stored gas.
At first, the excessive-force explosions seemed to be confined to that company's products. But NHTSA has learned of similar problems with older airbags produced by ARC Automotive Inc. that were put into thousands of Chryslers and Kias.
Will more airbags turn out to have similar defects as the Takata products? Have more people been hurt and killed by defective airbags that previously known? Perhaps time will tell.