When a vehicle collides with some high-inertia object, the occupants have a tendency to keep going…until they are stopped by hitting a seatbelt, a windscreen, or each other. For improved safety in a car crash, it’s necessary to decelerate people much more gradually…which is why we have seatbelts with progressive tensioning and airbags.
Today’s invention is a way to augment these systems or to replace them in situations where airbags aren’t appropriate…such as racecars. This amounts to a gradualised form of reactive armour for non-military purposes.
Beneath the surfaces of vehicles, a large number of small charges would be fitted. These would each have a force-sensitive actuator, so that they would fire, and slow the vehicle down, only if the intensity of impact was high enough (thus avoiding explosions when contacting pedestrians). If such bomblets are unacceptable, then springs could be used -held in a pre-compressed state by an impact-sensitive clip. The reactive units could be fitted in regions of maximal impact probability…ie around the front and rear surfaces.
These positions might house multiple layers of charges, so that they would experience a braking force proportionate to the degree of local indentation. Such a system could be used to reduce the need for mechanical ‘crumple zones’ and thus make vehicles physically smaller and more manoeuvrable.