TOKYO – Honda Motor Co. Ltd. continues to stake out new ground when it comes to safety technology.

With the Nov. 6 launch of the Life minicar, the auto maker introduced the first driver-side airbag with continuously staged inflation capability. Deploying 50% faster than conventional 2-stage airbags, the unit incorporates a new gas-release control valve and spiral seam structure.

Meanwhile, the new Odyssey minivan, which went on sale in Japan in mid-October, features a multiview camera system that incorporates four wide-angle charge-coupled-device (CCD) cameras, reducing blind spots on narrow roads and through intersections and increasing visibility when parking.

The system, which is similar to Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.’s Around View Monitor featured on the Elgrand and Serena minivans and EX and FX luxury cross/utility vehicles, incorporates CCD cameras in both driver and passenger door mirrors, a third above the front grill and fourth around the rear bumper.

In October, the auto maker introduced a pop-up hood on the new Legend designed to reduce pedestrian head injuries in the event of a collision. The system incorporates three G-sensors in the front bumper that raise the hood 4 ins. (10 cm) to provide a buffer to the engine.

These systems join a growing list of advanced safety features on Honda cars. Others include collision-mitigation brakes, lane-departure assist, active front lighting and night vision.

Mitsuhiro Ueno, a senior executive at Honda R&D Co. Ltd., says penetration of the safety systems throughout the auto maker’s lineup will be gradual. “Like with airbags before,” Ueno says, “we will see prices come down in the next five to 10 years.”

In Japan, Honda has installed collision-mitigation brakes on the Inspire, Elysion, Odyssey, Crossroad, CR-V, Stream, Civic, Step Wagon and Legend, while lane-keeping assist is available on the Accord, Accord Wagon, Legend and Inspire.

Overseas, collision-mitigation brakes are available on the Acura RL, Legend and CR-V, while lane-departure assist is sold on the Legend, Accord and Accord Tourer.

Meanwhile, the Legend is the only Honda car with night vision, while active front lighting is available on the CR-V, Legend, Elysion, Elysion Prestige and Odyssey, in Japan, and Acura RL and Legend overseas.

Ueno says the auto maker currently is evaluating whether knee airbags are necessary and will make a decision soon. At present, most Honda cars are equipped with six airbags.

In a related development, Honda unveiled its Dedicated Short-Range Communication System last week at the 15th World Congress on Intelligent Transportation Systems in New York. The experimental system, designed for inter-vehicle communications, transmits such information as speed, acceleration and brake status at 5.9 GHz frequency.

A senior research official says the device could be ready for market in the next five years, depending on infrastructure development.

Honda also displayed its new AcuraLink telematic system, which brings real-time weather and traffic rerouting information into the car. The system already is available in certain Acura models, including the new TSX and TL sedans in the U.S.

Honda this week was awarded Top Safety Pick awards from the U.S.-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for 13 of its vehicles, placing it second to Ford Motor Co. among manufacturers with the highest number of models receiving the prize.