External airbags have quickly emerged as one of the hottest automotive trends of 2013. Dutch car manufacturer TNO was the first car company to unveil exterior airbags intended to save pedestrians and cyclists from injury. Then Swedish automaker Volvo jumped on the bandwagon. Now, Texas-based Hail Storm Products has produced an entirely different kind of external airbag -- one that inflates and protects cars from the damage inflicted by hail storms.
Every year, about 250,000 cars are damaged by hail in the US, leaving car owners with pockmarked vehicles and insurers with a flood of claims. If you don’t own a garage, there isn’t much you can do when a hail storm approaches. For those occasions, the folks at Hail Storm Products have produced the Hail Protector, an inflatable system that puffs up to form a large cushion that will protect your entire car from hail damage. The device was developed by Michael Siciliano, an inventor from Gunter, Texas who spent four years designing and testing his prototype before introducing it to the market.
The Hail Protector comes with a mobile app that uses information from the National Weather Service and sends owners alerts before a hail storm arrives. And don’t worry, you don’t have to blow it up manually; four blowers powered by AA batteries, your car’s cigarette lighter, or an AC outlet are used to inflate the airbag, which can be engaged with a remote control. The system can inflate in under five minutes, and according to Gizmag, it can protect your car from hail chunks that are as big as a softball. The system retails for $299 to $399, depending on the type of car you have.