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General Motors Plans Air Bag Innovations for 2001

Aired May 15, 2000 - 1:13 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Since they first appeared in cars and trucks, air bags have prevented thousands of deaths and injuries and caused dozens of others. It seems each year brings new refinements in air bag technology, and for 2001, General Motors plans two innovations.

Here is more now from CNN's Ed Garsten.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED GARSTEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): General Motors thinks this technology could mean curtains for a host of injuries suffered in certain crashes.

BRIAN LATOUF, SATURN: The advantage of a side head curtain air bag system is it provides head and neck protection in a side impact crash.

GARSTEN: Unlike other side airbag systems, the curtain is mounted in the roof, and is flatter and wider.

LATOUF: We felt that the curtain would intuitively provide us with more head coverage.

GARSTEN: The head curtain will be installed as a $200 to $300 option on 2001 Saturn L- and S-series cars, the lowest priced cars to be equipped with side air bags.

While air bags have been credited with saving 5,000 lives in the last decade, they've also been blamed in part for the deaths of 152 people, including 92 children. To minimize air bag deaths, G.M. plans to install so-called "dual stage" air bags on certain 2001 models. The bag inflates at full power in crashes above 25 miles an hour, 70 to 80 percent of power in crashes below 25.

JIM KOURY, GENERAL MOTORS: We've seen a 20 percent reduction in potential injury to the small female on the driver's side with these systems.

GARSTEN: G.M. will install dual-stage air bags as standard equipment on the 2001 Chevy Impala and Monte Carlo, Pontiac Bonneville, Oldsmobile Aurora and Buick Lesabre.

One safety expert says, dual air bags are a good idea, but that air bags in general are being used as a substitute for building stronger vehicles.

RALPH HOAR, SAFETY EXPERT: They've essentially replaced steel in the management of crash energy, not necessarily a good idea.

GARSTEN: G.M. is working on smarter air bags with sensors to further control air bag deployment through a series of sensors embedded in the front seat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For a child in any position, a small child in any system, the system knows not to allow a deployment.

GARSTEN: G.M. says it's not quite ready for installation, but hopes when it is, perhaps as early as next year, the suppression system will help prevent air bag induced injuries and deaths to small adults and children.

Ed Garsten, CNN, Milford, Michigan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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