Airbags have been in our cars for two decades. Recently automakers are trying to put as many airbags as they can into their new vehicles. But is it merely for added safety or another marketing tactic? Airbags are popping up in every area of the car from the side air bags to knee airbags. Are automakers going a little overboard or are the new airbags a welcome addition?

Lexus has unveiled that its upcoming 2008 Lexus LX570 will have ten airbags standard. That is the most of any other vehicle on the market. Currently many automakers are offering up to eight airbags in their cars.

“There’s definitely a war between the different manufacturers to see who can add the most safety advances and air bags,” said Hyundai spokesman Miles Johnson. He also noted that the upcoming Hyundai Genesis would have eight airbags as standard equipment.

The airbag race was sparked by an agreement that automakers made to equip at least half of their vehicles with side airbags. By 2009 side airbags will be standard equipment.

What is interesting is that initially airbags were not very popular with automakers, it wasn’t until the government stepped in that the interest sparked. Front airbags were required as standard equipment 10 years ago. The NHTSA predicts that since 1987 more than 22,000 lives have been saved by airbags.

Today side airbags are one of the top requirements on new car shoppers lists. Buyers are increasingly becoming aware of the available safety equipment are requiring it on their new vehicles.

The NHTSA is likely to require side airbags that protect passenger’s heads and torsos by 2010. In addition to protecting their heads and torsos, side airbags can also help to keep passengers without their seatbelts on in the car during a crash.

As automakers run out of places to place the airbags within the cars, they are beginning to test airbags that are located on the outside of the car. These external airbags are designed to protect pedestrians.

So the question is: Do we need all of these airbags? Airbags do save lives, but they also add additional weight and cost to vehicles. Are all of these new airbags necessary for our safety? For example is a knee airbag absolutely necessary?

Full Story: Detroit News

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