Airbags are cushions that are inflated extremely quickly upon impact (and subsequently deflated) to protect passengers during a collision. They provide a soft restraint between the occupants and the vehicle interior during the crash, which can reduce or even prevent injuries.
Early airbags protected front-seat occupants from frontal collisions. Since the turn of the century, they are combined with more advanced side-impact airbags as well.
Airbags are part of a range of built-in mechanisms that protect occupants of a car in case of a crash, the so-called passive safety systems, which also include seatbelts and deformation zones.
Passive safety technology is all about mitigating the consequences of an accident during and after impact, as from the moment that first contact is made. They do this by reducing the impact of an accident or the level of injury.