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The driver and passenger front airbag modules, after having been deployed, in a Peugeot 306

An airbag is a vehicle occupant-restraint system using a bag designed to inflate extremely quickly, then quickly deflate during a collision. It consists of the airbag cushion, a flexible fabric bag, an inflation module, and an impact sensor. The purpose of the airbag is to provide a vehicle occupant with a soft cushioning and restraint during a crash event. It can reduce injuries between the flailing occupant and the interior of the vehicle.

The airbag provides an energy-absorbing surface between the vehicle's occupants and a steering wheel, instrument panel, body pillar, headliner, and windshield. Modern vehicles may contain up to 10 airbag modules in various configurations, including: driver, passenger, side-curtain, seat-mounted, door-mounted, B and C-pillar mounted side-impact, knee bolster, inflatable seat belt, and pedestrian airbag modules.

During a crash, the vehicle's crash sensors provide crucial information to the airbag electronic controller unit (ECU), including collision type, angle, and severity of impact. Using this information, the airbag ECU's crash algorithm determines if the crash event meets the criteria for deployment and triggers various firing circuits to deploy one or more airbag modules within the vehicle. Working as a supplemental restraint system to the vehicle's seat-belt systems, airbag module deployments are triggered through a pyrotechnic process that is designed to be used once. Newer side-impact airbag modules consist of compressed-air cylinders that are triggered in the event of a side-on vehicle impact.[1]

The first commercial designs were introduced in passenger automobiles during the 1970s, with limited success, and actually caused some fatalities.[2] Broad commercial adoption of airbags occurred in many markets during the late 1980s and early 1990s with a driver airbag, and a front-passenger airbag, as well, on some cars, and many modern vehicles now include six or more units.[3]