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The hood (North American English) or bonnet (Commonwealth English excluding Canada) is the hinged cover over the engine of motor vehicles that allows access to the engine compartment (or trunk on rear-engine and some mid-engine vehicles) for maintenance and repair. In British terminology, hood refers to a fabric cover over the passenger compartment of the car (known as the 'top' in the US). In many motor vehicles built in the 1930s and 1940s, the resemblance to an actual hood or bonnet is clear when open and viewed head-on; in modern vehicles it continues to serve the same purpose but no longer resembles a head covering.
The hood release system is common on most vehicles and usually consists of an interior hood latch handle, hood release cable and hood latch assembly. The hood latch handle is usually located below the steering wheel, beside the driver's seat or set into the door frame. On race cars or cars with aftermarket hoods (that do not use the factory latch system) the hood may be held down by hood pins. A hood may contain a hood ornament, hood scoop, power bulge, and/or wiper jets. Hoods are typically made out of steel, but aluminum is rapidly gaining popularity with auto companies. Aftermarket manufacturers may construct hoods out of fiberglass, carbon fiber, or dry carbon.
In Japan and Europe, regulations have come into effect that place a limit on the severity of pedestrian head injury when struck by a motor vehicle. This is leading to more advanced hood designs, as evidenced by multicone hood inner panel designs as found on the Mazda RX-8 and other vehicles. Other changes are being made to use the hood as an active structure and push its surface several centimeters away from the hard motor components during a pedestrian crash. This may be achieved by mechanical (spring force) or pyrotechnic devices.