By Nat Shirley
Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012 @ 4:00 pm
 
For much of its history, Volvo has been largely defined by conservative styling and innovative safety technology. While Volvo has ditched its traditional boxy design language for a sleeker look on recent models, the Swedish automaker is still looking to push the safety envelope and has just unveiled the world's first pedestrian airbag.

Set to debut on the new V40, the system uses seven sensors to determine if the front of the car comes into contact with an object. When the system is activated, pyrotechnic mechanisms release the rear of the hood, allowing an airbag underneath to lift the hood up 0.4 inches.

Next, the airbag rises into position, covering the entire windshield wiper cowl, about one-third of the windshield and the lower part of the A-pillars (areas where Volvo's research determined that the most serious pedestrian head injuries occur). The entire process takes just a few hundredths of a second.

Volvo says that 75 percent of pedestrian collisions occur at speeds under 25 mph, so the system is active at speeds between 12 mph and 31 mph.

Though the V40 won't be offered for sale in the United States, look for Volvo to begin offering the pedestrian airbag system in U.S.-market models over the next few years.