How do airbags in a car work, won’t the passengers get crushed by it?  

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william1941 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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You have to understand the complete working of an air bag before you can ask this question. The most important units of an air bag system are: an air bag and gas generator, crash sensors and a diagnostic monitoring unit.

In case of a collision, which is taken to be the car hitting a barrier at 14.48 km/hr, the crash sensors detect the deceleration and send an electric current through an initiator. The initiator leads to a solid propellant undergoing a rapid production of a gas, usually nitrogen, which fills up the airbag in less than 1/20th of a second. The bag remains inflated for 1/10th of a second and then gets deflated which takes around 3/10th of a second.

This is a very essential part of the operation of the airbag mechanism. As you may guess, just an inflated bag is going to cause a lot of harm if you crash into it, just like you will injure yourself if you fall from a height even on something soft. The fact that the air bag inflates and then deflates after a very short duration of time allows it to absorb the energy of the impact and protects you in case of an impact.