With frontal, roof-mounted and rear-window airbags you'd be forgiven for thinking that there couldn't possibly be anywhere else in a car automobile manufacturers could cram one. But you'd be wrong. General Motors (GM) has just announced it will introduce the industry's first front center airbag in selected vehicles in 2013. The latest airbag addition is designed to protect drivers and front passengers in the event of side impact crashes.

Deploying from the right side of the driver's seat, the front center airbag positions itself between the front seats near the center of the vehicle. In addition to acting as an energy-absorbing cushion between the driver and the front passenger, the tethered, tubular airbag also acts as a restraint when the driver is the only front occupant of the vehicle.

After analyzing the National Highway Traffic Safety Adminstration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System database, GM says it found that far-side impact crashes accounted for 11 percent of the belted front occupant fatalities in non-rollover impacts between 2004 and 2009 involving 1999 model year or newer vehicles. It says these far-side fatalities, where the occupant is on the non-struck side of the vehicle, also accounted for 29 percent of all the belted front occupant fatalities in side impacts.

"While no restraint technology can address all body regions or all potential injuries," said Gay Kent, GM executive director of Vehicle Safety and Crashworthiness, "the front center air bag is designed to work with the other air bags and safety belts in the vehicles to collectively deliver an even more comprehensive occupant restraint system."

GM will introduce the front center airbag on the Buick Enclave, GMC Arcadia and Chevrolet Traverse midsize crossovers in the 2013 model year. They will be fitted as standard on all Enclaves and all Arcadia and Traverse with power seats.

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