Air bag sensors are prone to registering anything placed on a car seat – a heavy purse or a takeout bag, for instance – as simply a unit of weight. If that weight is under the recommended one, the air bag will shut off due to the occupant classification system (OCS). This is in place to prevent airbags from going off when a child is in the seat, but it’s usually a yes/no system – either there is enough weight or there isn’t, as I find out whenever my car flashes the “side airbag off” warning when I put my purse down.
A company called BeBop wants to refine these under-seat sensors a little. Their OCS system can sense not only the weight of an occupant, but also the location, including which way a person is leaning or whether a baby seat is being used. It can sense a person’s movements, including whether they are crossing their legs or leaning, and feeds that information to the air bag in order to optimize when and how to activate it.
BeBop produces sensors that can be used on a variety of products. Their examples include tires, shoes, and video game controllers, but in theory, the sensors can be used anywhere in which it would be useful to determine weight, shape, size, motion, location, and force. The company started out making smart fabric sensors for musical instruments, and has since expanded to other smart fabric uses.
In the case of the car seat, they haven’t detailed how exactly an air bag deployment might be changed in order to accommodate a passenger who is small, or who is sitting to the side. In the seat itself, bladders and hoses are attached to the pressure sensors in order to get a reading on the person or object sitting in the chair.
They are embedded in a waterproof, automotive grade fabric with no moving parts. At about 1 mm thick, it can be fitted under the upholstery of existing car seats in either the front or back.
Filed Under: M2M (machine to machine)