That didn’t look fun

The Chevrolet Camaro is known for a lot of things, but one of its darker secrets is its strange airbag system that deploys for no reason at all. It’s happened numerous times over the years, including an episode all the way back in 2011 when the airbags on a Camaro SS spontaneously deployed because the muscle car was doing hoons on an empty parking lot. More recently, a 2018 Camaro ZL1 saw a similar fate when its side curtain airbags engaged while the car was being driven on a race track.

Are the Chevrolet Camaro’s airbags a little too sensitive for its own good? I suppose the answer to that question varies depending on who you ask. On the one hand, it is perplexing to see airbags deploy when the muscle car doesn’t appear to be in any imminent danger of crashing. Take a look at this video. The driver is going along his merry way on a race track and doesn’t appear to be losing control of the car when — kablam! — the side curtain airbags come out. It doesn’t look like it hurt the driver in any meaningful way, but it’s easy to see that he was shaken enough from the explosion to stop the car in the middle of the track to get his bearings back. The shock looks completely real because you don’t expect the airbag to deploy at that moment and the explosion-like noise it produces is pretty impossible to expect.

The other incident I mentioned — the one that occurred in 2011 involving a Camaro SS — had similar circumstances. The muscle car wasn’t on a track — it was hooning in a parking lot — but it also wasn’t in any imminent danger. And yet, the airbags deployed for no reason at all. Or was there actually a reason why it deployed?

Watch The Side Curtain Airbags of the 2018 Camaro ZL1 Deploy While Driven on the Track
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It doesn’t look like it hurt the driver in any meaningful way, but it’s easy to see that he was shaken enough from the explosion to stop the car in the middle of the track to get his bearings back

If you ask Chevrolet, there are mitigating circumstances on why airbags could deploy even if a car doesn’t crash or get into an accident. Back in 2011, GM spokesman Alan Adler told Jalopnik that while airbags deploying spontaneously are “unusual,” it is possible for a driver to create conditions that trigger airbag sensors into thinking that a rollover is imminent. These conditions could lead to unexpected airbag deployment that’s similar to what happened to the Camaro SS back in 2011 and more recently, to the Camaro ZL1 in the video above.

“On rollover side curtain bags, the vehicle’s rollover sensing system is looking for a certain set of factors that "predict" a vehicle is going to roll over,” Adler added. “The airbag system cannot wait until it is too late to deploy the airbags. Drifting or creating a situation that has a certain combination of speed and vehicle angle can lead to an unwanted airbag deployment.”

While that does make sense, could it be that even with these triggers in place, the Camaro’s notoriously jumpy airbag system is a little too early on its own trigger? In times like this, I’m erring on the side of caution. These airbags should be jumpy because Adler’s right. They can’t wait for the car to get into a crash before they deploy. Doing so means that they’re failing at doing the one thing they’re supposed to do: protect the occupants of a car.

Further reading

2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Read our full review on the 2018 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.

2018 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Convertible High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Read our full review on the 2018 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Convertible.

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