Now there’s a tricky question. There is no single answer as to when an airbag should or should not deploy. Nor is there a magic collision speed that sets off airbags. Certainly not all types of crashes will result in airbag deployment, and airbags may not necessarily deploy when you might expect they would.
For example, there may be significant damage to your vehicle if you hit a pole with your front bumper, but it may be one of those “I can’t believe the airbags didn’t go off” cases. Given the narrow contact area in such a case, the collision forces may be ‘softened’ as compared to a crash with full bumper engagement. This is because airbag deployment depends on the accelerations experienced by the vehicles.
In another example, striking a curb with your car’s undercarriage may not cause very much damage at all to the vehicle, and you may think “I can’t believe the airbags actually went off!” In this example, hitting the curb could cause the forces to be concentrated to the vehicle’s frame, which has little give, and may cause a large and rapid enough acceleration to be experienced by the vehicle for the airbags to deploy.
In essence, a lot of damage on a vehicle doesn’t necessarily result in airbag deployment or vice versa. That’s why KEI engineers and scientists draw on their knowledge and experience to interpret vehicle damage in relation to airbag deployment.