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Could Airbag Technology Put an End to High-Speed Car Chases?

The vehicle is electric-powered and has the ability to accelerate up to 130 mph within three seconds.

High-speed car chases could soon become a thing of the past. The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is developing a remote-controlled vehicle that can deploy an airbag under a fleeing car that would slide it to a complete stop, potentially keeping police officers and citizens out of harm’s way.

Conceived of by Dante Barbis, a retired mechanical engineer from Lima, Peru, the vehicle is electric-powered and has the ability to accelerate up to 130 mph within three seconds.

Unlike current high-speed chase deterrents, such as “tire shredder” strips or devices that entangle a car’s wheels that need to be pre-positioned, the “airbag vehicle” could be deployed as needed for multiple law enforcement and military uses.

The concept vehicle design comes from the Air Force’s Open Innovation Pavilion, which sponsors public challenges using crowdsourcing answers to overcome technical issues. As part of the challenge, Barbis was given a $25,000 for the rights to use the “airbag vehicle” design.

In a blog on, Dr. Alok Das, leader of the rapid reaction force the AFRL, called the Open Innovation Pavilion a “real force multiplier” for the laboratory. The Open Innovation Pavilion is hosted on InnoCentive, an online innovation marketplace.

Das revealed that if the prototype vehicle passes testing, it will be demonstrated to the United States Air Force (USAF) Security Forces and ultimately transitioned to active use.

“By opening this challenge up to the world through InnoCentive, we were able to multiply the number of people thinking about this problem over 100-fold and received a workable solution within a 60-day period,” Das wrote.

Another law enforcement and military challenge under review from the Open Innovation Pavilion include a design and simulation of a shooter locator device designed to detect small arms fire from within a threat perimeter. The technology must locate the shots within a “fraction of a second” and give a location accurately up to a few meters.

Multiple calls from Government Technology to the AFRL seeking comment and further detail on the prototype airbag vehicle were not returned.