The 'Catcher's Mitt' is a major advancement in safety technology.

New vehicle safety innovations are often guided by the latest data on collisions, injuries, and fatalities — and Honda’s latest frontal airbag design, which is rolling out now, is no exception. Below, we’ll dive into how the automaker’s Next-Generation Frontal Airbag uses a strangely familiar shape to help increase occupant protection in a wider range of crash scenarios.

The inspiration for good ideas often comes from surprising places. As automakers push to build cars that offer their occupants better protection in a wider range of situations than ever, engineers are becoming increasingly creative in finding solutions to once-unrecognized problems.

In 2017, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported a slight decrease in fatalities on U.S. roadways compared to the previous two years. That’s good news, but safety innovation never stands still, and a new airbag design was put into the works.

Enter the engineers at Honda’s R&D Centre in Raymond, Ohio. A few years back, they set off to develop a new airbag technology that’s been appearing in the automaker’s recent models, starting in 2020.

The challenge was to provide better occupant protection in a wider array of crashes — with a particular focus on angled frontal impacts which see a moving car impact another object or vehicle at an angle. In this angled-crash situation, recent research has revealed that lateral impact forces can cause dangerous rotation of the occupant’s head which can cause brain trauma, or even allow it to slide off of the airbag, increasing the likelihood of severe injury.

The goal? Design an airbag that does a better job of controlling the deceleration and movement of the occupant’s head in angled crash situations.

The solution? Honda’s next-generation frontal airbag, dubbed the “Catcher’s Mitt”.

On deployment, the new airbag inflates multiple chambers arranged to create a catcher’s-mitt like shape, with two wings on either side. A woven mesh ‘sail panel’ connects the two wings to each other, and initially helps slow the occupants head down gently, before it’s engaged with the airbag itself. The sail panel and mitt-like shape of the airbag work hand in hand to catch the occupant’s head, slow it down, and then direct it inwards between the two inflated chambers arranged in a V-like shape. This helps cradle and protect the occupant’s head, keeping it properly positioned and protected in a wider range of crash scenarios.

The Next-Generation Frontal Airbag went on to win accolades from Popular Science, and the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), and has helped various models achieve top safety and crash-test scores from industry authorities.

With an eye for enhancing protection and reducing dangerous injuries in a wider range of particularly challenging collision types, Honda’s Next-Generation Frontal Airbag is currently available in the new Civic, as well as Acura models like the MDX and TLX.

Look for more models to be equipped with the technology soon.