Recently, we told you that Tesla got a waiver for advanced air bags for the Roadster. The Roadster "will be manufactured under Tesla's supervision and direction at a factory owned by Lotus" according to a file with regulations.gov. Lotus (which does not sponsor Tesla and Tesla is not a subsidiary of Lotus) got an airbag waiver for its Elise (on which the Roadster is based) and for being a low-volume carmaker. Why shouldn't Tesla get the same waiver? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the DOT (Department of Transportation) agreed and granted Tesla the waiver. We've heard this news already.
But what exactly is an advanced air bag? We mentioned it has "sensors in the front seats that adjust the inflation rate of the bags based on passenger weight and position." What's that good for? According to a file with Regulations.gov, "The upgrade was designed to meet the goals of improving protection for occupants of all sizes, belted and unbelted, in moderate-to-high-speed crashes, and of minimizing the risks posed by air bags to infants, children, and other occupants, especially in lowspeed crashes." That's why, as I hope you know, if you drive with small kids you should turn off the non-advanced air bags in their seats or seat them in the back (consult your car's manual for details).
So, does this mean the Tesla isn't safe for kids? Not so fast. We are talking about a three-year waiver for a very expensive, limited-run sports car and not exactly a family minivan here. In the file at Regulations.gov it says that "Tesla stated that it is unlikely that young children would be passengers in the Roadster, so an exemption from the advanced air bag requirements that are designed to protect children will not create a significant safety issue. In addition, as with the Lotus Elise, the front passenger seat in the Roadster is fixed in its rearmost position, thereby reducing air bag risks to children and other passengers." Also, in a comment to the waiver, David Nguyen "estimated that, based on Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data, the exemption would not result in any additional fatalities."
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