The 2013 Chevrolet Cruze sedan will have a somewhat unique safety feature: instead of the two-stage driver airbags common to most modern cars, the Cruze has a specially designed single-stage airbag with an automatic vent. According to Chevrolet, the airbag helps cushion occupants of different sizes without resorting to the typical two-stage design that’s presently in use.
In a normal two-stage driver's airbag, there are separate inflators used for low- and high-speed crashes, giving a different amount of protective cushioning depending on the severity of the car accident. Chevrolet's system, which was developed with supplier Takata, uses just one inflator for all crashes, but an internal vent system (shown in the above graphic) automatically adjusts the strength of the airbag.
Chevrolet says its single-stage system is lighter and more compact than the old two-stage airbag, yet "reduces the risk of inflation-induced injury by allowing the driver's forward momentum to effectively push the air out and away."
As testament to the device's safety, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has awarded the 2013 Chevrolet Cruze a five-star safety rating. That's the same rating the compact sedan received in 2011 and 2012 with its old two-stage airbag. The Cruze is also an Insurance Institute For Highway Safety Top Safety Pick.
"This new air bag technology is a smart way to manage crash forces," General Motors vehicle safety general director Gay Kent said in a statement. "The latest safety rating reflects the confidence we have in its new and carry-over safety technologies and overall crashworthiness."
Chevrolet also worked with suppler Takata to develop the front-center airbag in its Traverse crossover (that airbag is also available in the mechanically related Buick Acadia and Buick Enclave.)