Airbag History

When Was The Airbag Invented?

As with many questions, the answer is not as simple as the question. The first "sensing and safety system" was patented in 1968 by Allen Breed, but original designs of an inflatable restraint patent were filed long before (patent filed in 1951 by John Hedrik and Walter Linderer and issued in 1953).
Airbag History

This earlier airbag design was based on compressed air inflating an airbag, initiated by a bumper contact or by a trigger released by the driver. However, the air could not inflate the bag fast enough for proper operation.

1975 Buick Airbag

Ford designed an experimental fleet of vehicles in 1971 that contained airbags and General Motors tested airbags for governmental use in 1973 Chevrolets. The first vehicle sold to the public with an airbag was the Oldsmobile Toronado also in 1973, with additional models (Cadillac, Oldsmobile and Buick vehicles) being offered in 1975 and 1976. Airbag production was halted when these early designs resulted in multiple fatalitites for occupants.

When Were Airbags Required In the US?

Dual Airbags

On July 11th, 1984, the US government required vehicles produced after April 1, 1989, to be equipped with a passive restraint system for the driver. This could include an automatic seat belt or an airbag. Chrylser began installing airbags on their vehicles in 1988 while most of the other manufacturers phased them in over the next 2 years. By 1992, all passenger vehicles produced for the US had driver airbag protection. Light trucks were not required to have airbag protection until 1995.

In 1998 all passenger vehicles manufactured in or imported into the US were required to have dual airbags (for both the driver and the passenger) as well as 'de-powered or 2nd genration' airbags. For the complete Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard regulation, click Here (FMVSS 208)

Autoliv, a Swedish company first indroduced side (seat) airbags in the 1994 Volvo 850 and became standard features in all Volvo vehicles from 1995 forward. In 1997 side curtain airbags were introduced by both Toyota and BMW for production model vehicles.
By 1999, side impact airbags became popular with many manufacturers as an optional safety feature, even on compact cars, but as of this date, 2010 there is no governmental regulation requiring them on US vehicles.