Tesla aims for safer airbag deployment by knowing your weight through seat sensors

Tesla is developing a way to classify drivers and passengers based on their weight in order to program safer airbag deployment in its vehicles, according to a new patent application.

Earlier this week, a patent application by Tesla called ‘Sensors for Vehicle Occupant Classification Systems and Methods’ became public – showing how the automaker is working on a way to improve its airbag deployment.

The company explains current issues with airbag deployment based on the occupants:

“Vehicles are steadily becoming safer by incorporating automated systems to monitor operations of the vehicle while the vehicle is in motion and to provide coordinated alerts and assistance as needed. However, difficulties remain in reliably detecting the presence of vehicle occupants and accurately classifying them as children, relatively small adults, and/or according to other classifications, and particularly in differentiating between classifications. Accurate classification can be critical when the vehicle is attempting to assist or enact safety measures to protect the occupant.”

Tesla’s solution is a system of classifying occupants based on their weight, which it can detect with sensors in the seats.

The company wrote in the patent application:

“Techniques are disclosed for systems and methods to detect and/or classify a vehicle occupant, such as a passenger seated within the cockpit of a vehicle. A vehicle accessory control system may include one or more occupant weight sensors, occupant presence sensors, and logic devices configured to communicate with the occupant weight sensors and occupant presence sensors. Each occupant weight sensor may be configured to provide occupant weight sensor signals associated with a passenger seat for a vehicle, and each occupant presence sensor may be configured to provide occupant presence sensor signals associated with the passenger seat. The logic devices may be configured to receive sensor signals associated with the occupant weight and occupant presence sensors, determine estimated occupant weights and occupant presence responses, and determine and report corresponding occupant classification statuses. The logic devices may be configured to determine the estimated occupant weights and the occupant presence responses based, at least in part, on various environmental conditions so as to compensate for the environmental conditions before providing the occupant classification statuses.”

The way the sensors are set up, Tesla says that it can also detect the way occupants are sitting in their seats, which can also push the automaker to change its way to deploy airbags.

Here are a few drawings from Tesla’s patent application:

Tesla has been putting an emphasis on safety and it has paid over the years with all its vehicles obtaining top safety ratings.

Most recently, NHTSA has released its crash test results for Model 3 and it achieved the lowest probability of injury of any vehicle ever tested by the agency.

Here’s the patent application in full:

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