According to the Highway Loss Data Institute, approximately 250,000 cars are damaged by hail every year in the U.S. alone. The average cost of repair comes in at just over US$3,100, so what’s a person to do to protect their vehicle when rain takes the form of ice sculpted golf balls? The obvious solution – airbag the car.

Shifting the airbag from a car's interior to its exterior was the idea of the folks at Texas-based Hail Storm Products. The company's patented Hail Protection System is essentially a puffy car cover/airbag in one that is designed to protect from hail damage.

The system includes a smartphone app – available for iOS and Android – that uses information from the USA’s National Weather Service to provide owners with a warning on the potential for hail 30-60 minutes before a storm hits. For those that have forgotten their phone, the system will also send an email alert.

The cover itself is made up of two layers, the first of which straps to the wheels and under the car, with the second forming the outer protection. The cover inflates via four blowers that are powered by a small compressor that sits idle until the owner engages the defense system using a small remote.

With the ability to inflate in less than five minutes, the manufacturer claims the system can protect vehicles from hail up to the size of a softball. Once the storm has passed, the system then goes on standby and returns to its role as the Clark Kent of car covers.

In addition to hail defense, the cover also offers the usual UV protection, water resistance and breathability when not in armor mode. Installation is also car cover simple, with a few minor steps added for the strapping down and power connections.

The system retails for between $299 and $399, depending on the size of the vehicle to be protected.

The video below shows the Hail Protector inflating at 25x normal speed.

Source. Hail Storm Products