How Airbags Work on Tesla Model Y

Applies to: Model Y v2020.44 North America

Airbags inflate when sensors detect an impact that
exceeds deployment thresholds. These thresholds are
designed to predict the severity of a crash in time for
the airbags to help protect the vehicle’s occupants.
Airbags inflate instantly with considerable force
accompanied by a loud noise. The inflated bag, together
with the seat belts, limits movement of occupants to
reduce the risk of injury.

Front airbags are not ordinarily designed to inflate in
rear collisions, rollovers, side collisions and when braking
heavily or driving over bumps and potholes. Likewise,
front airbags may not inflate in all frontal collisions, such as
minor front collisions, underride collisions, or minor impacts
with narrow objects (such as posts or poles).
Significant superficial damage can occur to the vehicle
without the airbags inflating and, conversely, a relatively
small amount of structural damage can cause airbags to inflate.
Therefore, the external appearance of the vehicle
after a collision does not represent whether or not the front
airbags should have inflated.

WARNING: Before modifying your vehicle to
accommodate a person with disabilities in a way
that may affect the airbag system, contact Tesla.

Types of Airbags

Model Y has the following types of airbags:
• Front airbags: The front airbags are designed to reduce
injuries if larger children or adults are riding in the front seats.
Follow all warnings and instructions related to seating a child
on the front passenger seat (if permitted in your market region).
• Knee airbags: Knee airbags and the front airbags work together.
The knee airbags limit the forward motion of the front seat
occupants by restricting leg movement, thereby positioning
the occupants so that the front airbags work more effectively.
• Seat-mounted side airbags: A seat-mounted side airbag
in the front seats helps protect the pelvis and the thorax region
of the torso. The seat-mounted side airbags on both the impacted
and non-impacted side of the vehicle will inflate in the event of
severe side impact or severe offset frontal impact.
• Curtain airbags: Curtain airbags help protect the head.
Curtain airbags on both the impacted and non-impacted
side of the vehicle will inflate only if a severe side impact occurs,
or if the vehicle rolls over.

Passenger Front Airbag Status

The status of the passenger front airbag displays in the
top corner of the touchscreen:

Before driving with a child seat on the front passenger seat
(if legally permitted in your market region), always double-check
the status of the passenger front airbag to confirm that it is OFF.
When the passenger front airbag is OFF, it will not inflate when
a collision occurs. This indicator also displays when the seat
is unoccupied.

To protect an adult occupying the front passenger seat,
ensure the passenger front airbag is ON.
When the passenger front airbag is ON,
it may inflate when a collision occurs.

Controlling the Passenger Front Airbag

Model Y has an occupancy sensor in the front passenger
seat that controls the status of the front airbag.

NOTE: The occupancy classification system (OCS) meets
the regulatory requirement of FMVSS 208 and
automatically detects when inflating the passenger
front airbag would be unnecessary or potentially harmful.

WARNING: Seating an infant in a rear facing child safety seat
on a seat equipped with an operational airbag can cause
serious injury or death.

Object ClassificationOCS Passenger
Airbag Status*
Indicator statusNotes
EmptyOFFPASSENGER AIRBAG OFF
ObjectOFF or ONPASSENGER AIRBAG OFF or
PASSENGER AIRBAG ON
Depends on material/
contents.
Rear facing child seat
designed for children up to a
year old
OFFPASSENGER AIRBAG OFF20 lbs (9 kg) or less
Forward facing child seatOFFPASSENGER AIRBAG OFF35 lbs (16 kg) or less
Child in a booster seatOFF or ONPASSENGER AIRBAG OFF or
PASSENGER AIRBAG ON
20-100 lbs (9-45 kg)*
Large childOFF or ONPASSENGER AIRBAG OFF or
PASSENGER AIRBAG ON
5th percentile female or
larger (by weight)
ONPASSENGER AIRBAG ONOver approximately 100 lbs
(45 kg)
*If the passenger airbag status indicator does not match the situation, do not use the seat.
The passenger must ride in a different seat. Contact Tesla Service.

NOTE: It takes approximately six seconds after you power on Model Y
for the occupant classification system (OCS) to report accurate status
of the front passenger airbag. As a result, when you first power on Model Y, even in situations when it should be OFF because the seat is occupied by a weight of 20 lbs (9 kg) or less, it will take the touchscreen approximately six seconds to display the status, PASS AIRBAG OFF. If it fails to do so, contact Tesla Service and do not seat a child in the front passenger seating position.

To make sure the sensing system can correctly detect occupancy status, eliminate the following:

• Objects lodged under the seat.
• Heavy objects sitting on the seat (briefcase, large purse).
• Objects wedged between the seat back and seat cushion.
• Cargo interfering with the seat.
• Aftermarket items attached to, or sitting on or between, the seat and occupant including but not limited to covers, mats, blankets, etc.

These conditions can interfere with the occupancy sensor. If you have eliminated the above possibilities, and the airbag status is still incorrect,
ask passengers to ride in the rear seats and contact Tesla to have the airbag system checked.

NOTE: The front passenger occupancy sensor affects the operation of the passenger front airbags only. The side airbags are not affected.

WARNING: If the front passenger airbag is not turning on or off as expected based on the weight thresholds previously described,
contact Tesla immediately.

WARNING: If seating a child in the front passenger seat is legally permissible in your market region, it is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that the passenger front airbag is OFF.
Never seat a child in a rear facing safety seat in the front passenger seat with an active airbag. DEATH or SERIOUS INJURY to the child can occur.
Per recommendations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, all occupants age 12 and under must ride in the rear seats.

WARNING: Do not use seat covers on Model Y. Doing so could restrict deployment of the seat-mounted side air bags if a collision occurs. It can also reduce the accuracy of the occupant detection system, if equipped.


Ensuring Accurate Occupant Classification

To help ensure an occupant in the front passenger seat can be accurately classified, the passenger must:

• Wear a seat belt.
• Sit upright on the center of the seat cushion, with shoulders resting against the seat back and legs extended comfortably in front with feet on the floor.
• Remain positioned on the seat cushion and not lift their weight off the seat (for example, by pushing their feet against the floor or pressing on the center console or armrest to lift up).
• Never wear thick, wet, or bulky clothing (such as ski wear or padded clothing).
In addition to the items listed above, the following situations can interfere with the accuracy of the occupant classification system:
• Placing a radio transmitter (for example, a hunting radio or walkie-talkie) on the front passenger seat.
• Placing an AC/DC inverter, or a device that is being powered by the inverter (for example, a cell phone, tablet, or computer) on the front passenger seat cushion.
• Placing liquid (such as a bottled drink) or food containers on a car seat when a child seat is present.
• Incorrectly placing a child safety seat so that the entire lower section is not positioned against the seat cushion.
• Objects lodged under the seat or wedged between the seat back and cushion.
• Heavy objects sitting on the seat (briefcase, large purse).
• Cargo interfering with the seat.
• Aftermarket items attached to or placed between the seat and the occupant, such as covers, mats, blankets, etc.

These conditions can interfere with the occupancy sensor. If you have eliminated the above possibilities, and the airbag status is still incorrect, instruct passengers to ride in the rear seats and contact Tesla to have the airbag system checked.

NOTE: Tesla follows NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) recommendations that all occupants age 12 and under must ride in a rear seating position.

NOTE: The front passenger occupancy sensor affects the operation of the passenger front airbags only. The side airbags are not affected.

WARNING: Failure to follow the above instructions can adversely affect the Occupant Classification System (OCS) which can cause serious injury or death.

WARNING: If the front passenger airbag is not turning on or off as expected, do not seat a passenger in the front passenger seat. Contact Tesla Service.

WARNING: To ensure accuracy of the occupant detection system, do not make any modifications to the front passenger seat.

WARNING: Do not use seat covers on Model Y. Doing so could restrict deployment of the seat-mounted side air bags if a collision occurs. It can also reduce the accuracy of the occupant classification system.


Inflation Effects

WARNING: When airbags inflate, a fine powder is
released. This powder can irritate the skin and
should be thoroughly flushed from the eyes and
from any cuts or abrasions.

After inflation, the airbags deflate to provide a gradual
cushioning effect for the occupants and to ensure the
driver’s forward vision is not obscured.
If airbags have inflated, or if your vehicle has been in a
collision, your vehicle requires servicing before it will
power up. In addition, your airbags, seat belt pre-tensioners
and any associated components must be checked, and if
necessary, replaced. Contact Tesla Service immediately.

In a collision, in addition to the airbags inflating:

• Doors unlock.
• Hazard warning lights turn on.
• Interior lights turn on.
• High voltage is disabled.

NOTE: In some collisions, even if airbags did not inflate,
high voltage may be disabled and you will be unable to
power up and drive. Contact Tesla Service immediately.


Airbag Warning Indicator

The airbag indicator on the touchscreen
remains lit if the airbag system is
malfunctioning. The only time this
indicator should light up is briefly when
Model Y first powers up, in which case it
turns off within a few seconds. If it
remains lit, contact Tesla immediately
and do not drive.

Airbag Warnings

WARNING: All occupants, including the driver,
should always wear their seat belts, whether or
not an airbag is also provided at their seating
position, to minimize the risk of severe injury or
death in the event of a collision.

WARNING: Front seat occupants should not place
their arms over the airbag module, as an inflating
airbag can cause fractures or other injuries.

WARNING: Do not use seat covers on Model Y.
Doing so could restrict deployment of the seat-mounted
side air bags if a collision occurs. It can also reduce the
accuracy of the occupant detection system, if equipped.

WARNING: Airbags inflate with considerable
speed and force, which can cause injury. To limit
injuries, ensure that occupants are wearing seat
belts and are correctly seated, with the seat
positioned as far back as possible. The National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
recommends a minimum distance of 10″ (25 cm)
between an occupant’s chest and an airbag.

WARNING: Children should not be seated on the
front passenger seat unless permitted by
regulations in your market region. Follow all
regulations in your region for the appropriate way
to seat a child based on the child’s weight, size,
and age. The safest place to seat infants and
young children is in a rear seating position.
Seating an infant or child in a rear-facing child
restraint system on a seat equipped with an
operational airbag can cause serious injury or
death.

WARNING: Do not use a rear-facing child safety
seat on a seat with an operational airbag in front
of it. Doing so can cause injury or death if the
airbag inflates.

WARNING: To ensure correct inflation of the side
airbags, maintain an unobstructed gap between
an occupant’s torso and the side of Model Y.

WARNING: Passengers shouldn’t lean their heads
against doors. Doing so can cause injury if a
curtain airbag inflates.

WARNING: Do not allow passengers to obstruct
the operation of an airbag by placing feet, knees
or any other part of the body on or near an
airbag.

WARNING: Do not attach or place objects on or
near the front airbags, the side of the front seats,
the headliner at the side of the vehicle, or any
other airbag cover that could interfere with
inflation of an airbag. Objects can cause serious
injury if the vehicle is in a collision severe enough
to cause the airbag to inflate.

WARNING: Following inflation, some airbag components
are hot. Do not touch until they have cooled.

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