Over the last several decades, automakers have made great strides in addressing safety issues, first for front seat occupants and more recently for those in the back. Three point seat-belts are now pretty much universal in the rear compartment, as are head restraints. Curtain airbags are also becoming standard issue in most cars to provide extra protection when the car is impacted from the side. But how do you protect the rear seat occupants from each other?

Toyota has devised a new center position rear air bag that deploys from a roof mounted console. The new bag deploys from the ceiling during a side impact to minimize injuries that can occur when occupants collide with each other. Presumably (hopefully!) this bag does not deploy if someone is actually occupying the center position in the rear. Toyota reports that this new bag will debut this year on a domestic market Toyota vehicle.

Now, if only the engineers could develop a parental deployable barrier that could separate bickering siblings from each other during a road trip, we'd really be talking. Official press release after the jump.

[Source: Toyota]

Toyota Develops World's 1st Rear-seat Center Airbag

Tokyo - TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION (TMC) announces it has developed a Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) rear-seat center airbag-the first*1 in the world-to help reduce the severity of secondary injuries incurred by rear-seat passengers in a side-on collision.

The new airbag is fitted in a large, fixed, rear-seat center console that comes in a version of a Toyota model to be launched in Japan in the near future. When the vehicle is hit side-on, the airbag deploys from the top of the console to act as a barrier that helps lessen injuries caused by passengers colliding with each other or into the console.

TMC has continued to actively develop and make available its collision safety technologies-including its early commercialization of SRS curtain shield and knee airbags-to enable its vehicles to better respond to a wider range of accidents.

TMC, as a part of its efforts to realize sustainable mobility, intends to strengthen its traffic safety initiatives in the future through: 1) the development of even safer vehicles and technologies based on TMC's Integrated Safety Management Concept*2, 2) participation in the creation of a safe traffic environment, and 3) activities designed to teach people about traffic safety, thereby contributing to the complete elimination of traffic casualties, which can be viewed as the ultimate hope of a society that values mobility.

*1 According to TMC research, as of February 28, 2009
*2 TMC's safety technology and vehicle development concept, which, by combining safety technologies and systems to provide optimal driving support, aims to successfully develop vehicles that do not cause accidents

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