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Could your car's airbag randomly explode?

Cars have come a long ways from the days of Henry Ford's Model T. That car was so simple, that virtually anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of mechanics could make basic repairs and keep the vehicle running. Of course, it lacked many of the comforts and safety features of modern vehicles.

The technical complexity that allows passengers to survive, sometimes miraculously, serious car accidents, carries its own risks and dangers. As with the unintended acceleration cases, vehicle control systems are so complex that the automobile manufacturers, governmental regulators and NASA, were unable to replicate errors within the systems that resulted in fatal car accidents.

The most recent recall news involves the air bags that are used on millions of cars. Air bags are the now ubiquitous safety device that is designed to inflate milliseconds after a collision and prevent occupants of a vehicle from being violently tossed about during the crash.

The defect appears to be related to the inflators, which can explode unexpectedly and spray the passenger compartment with metal shards from the propellant canister. In one such incident, a woman was struck in the neck and carotid artery. She sued Honda and Takata, the marker of the air bag and reached a confidential settlement.

Honda was part of a recall Monday by car manufacturers that involved three million vehicles. Honda stated it was "aware" of more than 30 incidents with injuries and two fatalities involving defective Takata air bags.

More recalls could occur, as the air bag manufacturer appears to have problems with their quality control recordkeeping, which means it may be difficult to determine exactly which cars may have the defective air bags. 

Source: The New York Times, "Now the Air Bags Are Faulty, Too," Hiroko Tabuchi and Christopher Jensen, June 23, 2014

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