Jaguar's New Convertible Has A Pyrotechnic Popping Hood To Keep Pedestrians Alive

Jaguar’s engineering efforts to make its
new sports carsafe as well as attractive include a pyrotechnic system that raise its hood in the event of a collision with a pedestrian, turning a deadly surface into a something closer to a soft landing pad.

Sensors in the bumper of the F-Type detect contact with a pedestrian, triggering two small, airbag-like devices under the hood, near the windshield.

Nearly instantly, they pop the hood up 20 millimeters (.79 inches), creating a vital cushion of air between the aluminium and the much harder engine underneath.

That’s enough to lessen the severity of an impact, and won Jaguar a Traffic Safety Improvement award from the World Traffic Safety Symposium in 2006, when the Pyrotechnic Deployable Bonnet System was first introduced in the 2007 XK sedan. It is now on all F-Types.

Saving Lives, Looking Good

While the obvious advantage of the system is for pedestrians in harm’s way, drivers benefit as well. One reason so many modern cars look alike is that they conform to the same strict safety regulations that reduce deaths on the road.

Looks are especially important to the F-Type, a car that marks Jaguar’s return to the sports car market 40 years after ending production of the iconic E-Type. A European regulation requires a minimum space between the hood and any hard object underneath, but permanently raising the hood of the F-Type would have taken away from its low, sleek profile.

Enter the popping hood.

Various countries’ legislative requirements for vehicle safety are “massive,” and present constant obstacles to bold design, said Kevan Richardson, Program Manager for Jaguar Sports Cars. But he credited Jaguar engineers — more than 350 worked simultaneously on the F-Type at points — with finding solutions that would keep the car attractive (though not quite “sexy”) and up to code.

Specific to the F-Type is another, less explosive engineering solution. A standard way to improve strength between two sides of a convertible (usually done by the roof) is with a cross brace, a bar connecting the sides and holding them together:

But that would not have worked with the low nose of the F-Type or pedestrian safety regulations. So here’s what Jaguar engineers came up with:

The end result is a great-looking, regulation-meeting sports car that is also the stiffest convertible Jaguar has ever made — and a ton of fun to drive.

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