General Motors announced Thursday that it will put the automotive industry’s first front center airbag in some of its vehicles starting with the 2013 model year. The front center airbag will inflate in between the driver and front passenger to protect them in a side-impact crash.

GM says the new front center airbag is mostly designed to protect the person sitting on the side of the vehicle that is not hit, because without the airbag, that person’s head and torso would hit the other person. GM says it will also help prevent injuries to the head and spine. “Violent side-to-side motions in side-impact crashes cause many spinal injuries,” CNNMoney reports.

GM explains that the center airbag will deploy from the driver’s seat on the right side and inflate between the driver and front passenger seats. “This tethered, tubular air bag is designed to provide restraint during passenger-side crashes when the driver is the only front occupant, and also acts as an energy absorbing cushion between driver and front passenger in both driver- and passenger-side crashes,” GM says in a statement. “The air bag also is expected to provide benefit in rollovers.”

GM says the first vehicles to get the new center airbag will be the 2013 Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave. All Buick Enclave SUVs will get the airbag standard, and it will come standard with Acadia and Traverse models with power-adjustable seats.

“GM won't say what other vehicles will get this new air bag in the future, but it's easy to speculate that a lot of them will,” The Detroit News reports.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says the front center airbag is a good safety feature for consumers. “The front center airbag has real potential to save lives in side crashes,” says Adrian Lund, president of the IIHS.

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