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A next-generation driver air bag was a major element in the supplemental restraint system that included the steering wheel, steering column, instrument panel knee blocker. These elements combined with seat belts, which were the primary occupant restraint system and must always be worn properly, to provide the driver with significant crash protection.
Next-generation air bags incorporated a new hybrid inflator module that used a small amount of pyrotechnic material with compressed argon gas. A new igniter triggers combustion of the pyrotechnic material and a consistent, controlled release and expansion of the compressed gas that takes a few milliseconds longer than before to fill the air bag. A small amount of pyrotechnic produced few particulates. An SRS logo molded into the trim cover denoted the presence of the air bag and that next-generation air bags were still supplemental restraints.
When the driver contacted the next-generation air bag, the steering wheel absorbed and distributed the load to the steering column. Subtle variations in cross-sectional shape and material thickness of the new Concorde and Intrepid wheel's die-cast magnesium armature, developed through the use of computerized finite element analysis, ensure efficient load distribution in milliseconds. The steering column reacted with the body structure, deforming to absorb some energy and transferring some. The die-cast magnesium column assembly and steel lower mounting bracket provided a combination of strength and deformability to help control driver impact loads. A telescoping intermediate steering shaft assembly collapsed during impact to help avoid transmitting impact forces from the body structure to the steering column.
Further, the steel knee bolster behind the steering column lower cover deformed and also transferred loads to the body structure through brackets and struts to help manage impact energy for driver protection.
Passenger Air Bag
A next-generation passenger air bag was standard on Concorde and Intrepid. As with the driver air bag, it was certified to comply with the recently revised FMVSS 208. Passenger air bag inflators used a small amount of liquid fuel to trigger a consistent, controlled release of compressed argon gas stored in a pressure cylinder that takes a few milli-seconds longer than before to fill the air bag. The new Concorde and Intrepid were the first domestic US vehicles to use liquid fuel for the passenger air bag. Benefits of this liquid-fuel inflator included:
The next-generation passenger air bag, seat belts, the instrument panel knee bolster in the glove compartment door, and the body structure managed crash energy for milli-seconds to provide significant crash protection in frontal impacts.
The passenger air bag module was mounted directly on the instrument panel's structural retainer, concealed by the padded instrument panel's seamless outer surface. A concealed air bag door, also attached to the retainer, separated the outer skin of the panel when the air bag deploys. An SRS Air Bag logo molded into the instrument panel cover denoted the presence of the air bag and served as a reminder that next-generation air bags were still supplemental restraints.
Air Bag Control Module
The air bag control module (ACM) provided the following new features:
A more stringent, extended head impact safety standard (FMVSS 201) was being phased in between the 1999 and 2003 model years. The 1998 Concorde and Intrepid complied in advance partly through trim refinements:
Dynamic Side Impact Protection
The ability of the new Concorde and Intrepid body structures to protect passengers in a side impact collision, as required by the US Government, was integrated into the body structure with a minimum of additional weight. The ability to absorb impacted energy and minimized intrusion was efficiently distributed around the periphery of the passenger compartment structure:
Steering Wheel and Steering Column
The ductility of the magnesium steering wheel allowed it to deform effectively during impact for driver protection. The steering column provided effective support for the driver air bag. Column mounting was sturdy to ensure consistent air bag positioning during frontal impact.
Rear Impact-Resistant Front Seats
All new Concorde and Intrepid front seats were designed to absorb energy from rear impacts for occupant protection. This protection was provided over and above the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Structural strength was distributed throughout the seats, including tracks, frames and recliner mechanisms on both sides of each back. Head restraints were also larger, farther forward and have a maximum adjustable height 0.87 in. (22 mm) higher than in 1997. The new head restraints also had positive latches to prevent downward pressure from lowering them, and were not removable.
The Remote Keyless Entry (RKE) system was operated by a new control module that plugs directly onto the BCM (Body Control Module), simplifying assembly and increasing reliability. The new module allowed the use of up to four transmitters per vehicle. It also allowed an owner to have RKE installed on the car by a dealer. An external antenna added to the receiver provided increased range, enabling it to receive signals from transmitters at a distance of at least 40 feet (12 m).
New transmitters sent a unique coded signal that changed in an indecipherable manner each time a button on the transmitter was pressed. Rolling code thwarts would-be thieves who would attempt to unlock the vehicle by capturing and reproducing the code with a scanner or by transmitting a massive number of codes from a random signal alternator among which one would duplicate the code of a valid transmitter.
A vehicle theft security alarm (VTSA) was optional. It detered vandalism and non-professional theft, frequently lowering insurance premiums, by monitoring door ajar switches, the ignition circuit, power door lock and unlock circuits and a trunk lid lock sensor. If a switch or sensor was triggered, the horn blew intermittently, exterior lights flash and the ignition was disabled to prevent theft of the vehicle. The VTSA was automatically armed by locking the doors with any power lock switch or with the remote keyless entry transmitter. A warning lamp on top if the instrument panel flashes.
To discourage theft and illegal entry, new lock cylinders each had an additional tumbler. In addition, a side-bar alignment notch reduced the possibility of theft through the use of substitute keys and the possibility of accidentally unlocking the wrong car by a key with a tumbler sequence nearly identical to the correct one. A new, longer key had an oval, molded head.
HomeLink operated home security systems that used specially coded signals, known generically as rolling codes, to increase security.
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