You are currently viewing Tech Throwback: A Brief 40-Year History Of Bosch Airbag Control Unit

Tech Throwback: A Brief 40-Year History Of Bosch Airbag Control Unit

In first half of 1976, around Spring, Bosch had applied for a patent on a device that it described as a “triggering apparatus for an inflation process in a bag”. In an article published 40 years later, the company reminisces that it marked the first important step in development at the company.


Before then at least 20 something years earlier, airbag ideas were getting popular in Europe and the US. This was important because the number of serious accidents were rising as vehicles traffic increased. By 1969, the US Department of Transportation had already issued laws about safety belts and ‘passive occupant protection systems’ for new cars.


However, early airbag designs failed because some had defective sensors or their triggering mechanisms packed up. Bosch’s airbag had a major component, an acceleration sensor that measured the deceleration occurring on impact in relation to time. This inflated the protective airbag at the right time, no matter the cause of the accident. Bosch first produced passive restraint systems for the Mercedes-Benz S-Class in 1981 after it began mass production in 1980.

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This early system had three ignition outputs to trigger a driver airbag and a two-step passenger airbag or the same number of belt tensioners. Even at the time, the device had to carry out complex tasks. For example, it needed to identify accidents and measure its severity accurately. Also, the airbag and belt tensioner had to come up at the right time. Also, there was a mechanism that monitored and prevented improper actuation while showing information that the system was available and functioning.


Tech Throwback: A Brief 40-Year History Of Bosch Airbag Control Unit
Bosch airbag system features a working restraint mechanism. Photo: Bosch.


The Bosch airbag uses a control unit that triggers actuation when the impact speeds are at 15 to 18 km/h or more. This acceleration sensor and other application-specific circuits could differentiate between an accident and a pothole, curb, or a heavy hammer blow in the service station.


Since its 1980s production, the company has been adding improvements to the device. Bosch now has an airbag control unit that is its 12th generation. This new generation device analyses reports from 18 external acceleration and pressure sensors. In addition, it controls about 48 restraints.


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Onwuasoanya Obinna

A reader of books and stringer of words. Passionate about Science and Tech. When not writing or reading he is surfing the web and Tweeting.

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