• Feb 10th 2008 at 8:32PM
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Recently, we told you that Tesla got a waiver for advanced air bags for the Roadster. The Roadster "will be manufactured under Tesla's supervision and direction at a factory owned by Lotus" according to a file with regulations.gov. Lotus (which does not sponsor Tesla and Tesla is not a subsidiary of Lotus) got an airbag waiver for its Elise (on which the Roadster is based) and for being a low-volume carmaker. Why shouldn't Tesla get the same waiver? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the DOT (Department of Transportation) agreed and granted Tesla the waiver. We've heard this news already.

But what exactly is an advanced air bag? We mentioned it has "sensors in the front seats that adjust the inflation rate of the bags based on passenger weight and position." What's that good for? According to a file with Regulations.gov, "The upgrade was designed to meet the goals of improving protection for occupants of all sizes, belted and unbelted, in moderate-to-high-speed crashes, and of minimizing the risks posed by air bags to infants, children, and other occupants, especially in lowspeed crashes." That's why, as I hope you know, if you drive with small kids you should turn off the non-advanced air bags in their seats or seat them in the back (consult your car's manual for details).

So, does this mean the Tesla isn't safe for kids? Not so fast. We are talking about a three-year waiver for a very expensive, limited-run sports car and not exactly a family minivan here. In the file at Regulations.gov it says that "Tesla stated that it is unlikely that young children would be passengers in the Roadster, so an exemption from the advanced air bag requirements that are designed to protect children will not create a significant safety issue. In addition, as with the Lotus Elise, the front passenger seat in the Roadster is fixed in its rearmost position, thereby reducing air bag risks to children and other passengers." Also, in a comment to the waiver, David Nguyen "estimated that, based on Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data, the exemption would not result in any additional fatalities."

[Source: Regulations.gov]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      Spike: Life sucks, get a helmet; but don't FORCE one on me (ooh, too late for that one).

      A couple of key words in that excerpt are 'TEENS' and 'CARELESS DRIVERS', both of which would be to blame in this scenario, NOT the car that they are driving. These are people that either shouldn't be allowed to drive such vehicles, or (*gasp*) be TAUGHT how to drive them safely and responsibly by those responsible for them, e.g. their parents, NOT the government.

      Still, it's obvious to me that this will go nowhere as we are polar opposites on the (off-)topic. You believe in saving lives at all (or most) costs by forcing restrictions because people cannot be trusted with their own safety or with the safety of those for which they are responsible. You save lives, but then those saved go on, ignorantly blissful of their or others' actions and consequences in an ever-widening downward spiral of padded walls and stringent safety equipment.

      Conversely, I believe we should remove many safety measures (within a fair amount of reason, accidents DO happen, after all) in order for those same untrustworthy types to either learn from their mistakes or else become shining examples to the rest of us as how to effectively remove oneself from the gene pool. The 99.9% remainder will be smarter and better drivers for it, knowing that cruising at 120mph in a school zone is indeed a bad idea.

      It's Highway Darwinism, and it's (un?)common sense.

      In the Tesla, the likelihood of very small children being driven around is virtually nil, regardless. Then, from what I can tell of the car's structure, the seats aren't likely to deform/move forward much at all, and the seatbelt takes care of the rest. Baby seats in a two-seater roadster should be an obvious no-no. Anyone with kids capable of buying a Tesla will have their separate family vehicle for child transport. Then, anyone idiotic enough to take a small child in an already dangerous 'hot lap' would undoubtedly deserve what they get. Tragic? Sure. But it's still not the car's fault.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Rojo, you make a few good points, but baby seats are a no-no in a roadster? Yes, it's a sports car made for high-performance driving, but it's also a real car you can drive on regular trips around town, yes, even with a baby seat, although I won't expect too many owners to do that very often. If you want to get anywhere close to the advertised 220 mile range, you'll HAVE to drive slowly.

      And to "Speed Kills" Spike, people have a brain, a right foot and an accelerator pedal. Use it. You can drive a sports car slowly just as easily as drive it quickly. And again, you'll have to drive a Tesla very slowly to get close to its 220 mi range. It's true that high powered cars are less efficient because of extra and the engine that's operating farther below peak efficiency in easy driving, but a 400hp Corvette still gets 26MPG highway.
      • 7 Years Ago
      This issue on airbags with Tesla is a "new" thing because it's truly a new car. For people who aren't in the sports car circuit or of interest do not know that all those other luxury sports cars get exempted too.

      It's brought up with Tesla because it is trying to become THE FIRST successful start-up automaker in the last century(practically). And it's an electric car so "we" the society at large compare it to the standards of the gas car, on every detail. And since we have more stringent airbag regulations all the more of the focus on Tesla.

      Otherwise it would have never been an issue.

      • 7 Years Ago
      It think a good way to answer the question in the title of this post is, "Are all cars without advanced air bags unsafe for kids?"

      If you think so, then probably alot of cars on the road would be considered unsafe for kids.
      • 7 Years Ago
      It's not unsafe for kids, but it is less idiot-proof. A full powered front passenger airbag is dangerous to a rear facing child seat. They always recommend to put child seats in the rear seat. For 2 seaters, they used to give you a manual key switch to turn off the front passenger airbag. The Tesla would probably have one too.
      • 7 Years Ago
      No car that does 0 to 60 this fast is safe for kids or anyone else in the car or standing near by. Speed Kills and the more power the more likely the driver is to loose control. I would be more impressed if Tesla had built a car with 400 mile range like the Sunrise built by Solectria in the 1990s.
      • 7 Years Ago
      The question is: "Are airbags safe for children?".
      • 7 Years Ago
      Just trying to see how closed minded people are. I have known quite a few people who killed themselves and their friends with highway darwinism. I don't really understand the overwhelming desire of people to protect their "right' to engage in dangerous behavior but the less people on the planet the better the quality of life will be for the rest. We do not have a right to ever increasing HP or to endanger the lives of others with vehicles that are rediculously over powered for the purpose of personal mobility. We do not have a right to continue to destroy the habitability of the planet with absurd technology. The assumption that what we are doing today in transportations is reasonable is just nonsense. This is an ever so brief moment in the evolution of technology. On a resource constrained planet such entitlement to the More-Bigger-Faster lifestyle will increasing be restricted. Enjoy it while you can, Rojo
      • 7 Years Ago
      BTW, Miles Automotive was against the petition but it went through (mostly because they didn't support their claims with data).

      I'm the guy quoted in the article above. If you want more detail about what was proposed and who said what go here:


      • 7 Years Ago
      Any vehicle without advanced airbags is not inherently unsafe compared to one with advanced airbags. The difference is the force and velocity of the deploying airbag are greater in the initial 30 milliseconds or so of deployment. Also they will have only 1 level of deployment, vs having 2 levels where lower crash speeds get a softer airbag.

      This all really only makes a difference if you put your head or other body part right in front of the airbag when it deploys. Which mostly happens if you are not properly wearing safety belts, or sit way too close to the steering wheel (within 8").

      Same issue for children with airbags in general. They are only dangerous if a rear facing child seat is in the path of the deploying airbag (never put rear facing in front seat unless vehicle has ability to disarm airbag). Or if a forward facing child is not properly restrained or is sitting too closely.

      A properly restrained child (car seat, or seat belt for older children) actually benefits greatly from an airbag just like an adult does.

      The whole point of an airbag is to reduce neck injury (fractures, spinal damage), even though minor injuries can be incurred by the airbag (abrasions, lacerations).
      • 7 Years Ago
      People do many things that are not in their own best interest and the love of speed in cars is just one of many"supersize me", advertising manipulated behaviors that are just not smart much less necessary to or an entitled part of personal mobility.
      The following is from an article about the 2005 Detroit auto show titled Hold Your Horse Power.
      "The big "more" of the auto show is more horsepower. Eighteen models on display at the show boasted 500 horsepower or more.
      Do you think there's a "right" to horsepower? Puh-leeze. Perhaps you've got a right to horsepower for vehicles used exclusively on private property. Cars and SUVs are driven on public roads, and courts have consistently held that government can regulate vehicles for public safety and for public-interest issues such as pollution reduction and petroleum savings. You don't have any "right" to test a rocket engine in the street or drive a bulldozer on the highway, because such things imperil public safety. High horsepower, which imperils public safety, needs to be regulated.
      But suppose you don't care about petroleum imports, greenhouse gases (which are proportional to fuel burned), or the fact that aggressive, overpowered cars and SUVs are a root cause of road rage, which makes driving unpleasant for everyone. Wouldn't you still care that more horsepower means more people dead--especially, more young people dead?
      All this power makes it increasingly easy for drivers, especially young drivers, to get in trouble. A Ford LTD of the 1960s, the sort of land yacht so many Boomers learned to drive on, did zero-to-sixty in 13 or 14 seconds--you had to work really hard to spin it out. A car that does zero-to-sixty in just a few seconds, on the other hand, is distressingly easy to lose control of. High-horsepower cars that gain lots of speed with just a touch of the throttle are practically a death sentence for teens or careless drivers. Horsepower, surely, is the reason road fatality numbers aren't dropping much, despite the spread of air bags, antilock brakes, and other safety improvements."
      by Greg Easterbrook
      • 7 Years Ago
      I'd expect it's even less dangerous to children than the Lotus Elise, Ferrari F430, Maserati, Lamborghini, Bugatti or Saleen which have also been granted exemptions.

      No one seems too concerned about all those others, but Tesla gets a lot more attention.
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