Dearborn, Michigan – Ford has announced it will bring the world’s first automotive rear-seat inflatable seatbelts to the market, which it will introduce on the next-generation Ford Explorer that will go into production next year. The company plans to offer the technology in vehicles globally.
The new belts combine the attributes of traditional seatbelts and airbags to provide an added level of crash safety protection for rear seat occupants. The advanced restraint system is designed to help reduce head, neck and chest injuries for rear seat passengers, often children and older passengers who can be more vulnerable to such injuries.
“Ford’s rear inflatable seatbelt technology will enhance safety for rear-seat passengers of all ages, especially for young children who are more vulnerable in crashes,” said Sue Cische, Ford group vice-president of sustainability, environmental and safety engineering. “This is another unique family technology that builds on our safety leadership, including the most top safety ratings of any automaker.”
The belts deploy over an occupant’s torso and shoulder in 40 milliseconds in the event of a crash. In everyday use, the belts operate like conventional seatbelts, and are safe and compatible with infant and children safety car and booster seats. In the event of a frontal or side crash, the inflatable belt’s increased diameter more effectively holds the occupant in the appropriate seating position, helping to reduce the risk of injury. The belts use cold compressed gas, rather than a heat-generating chemical reaction typical of traditional airbags, meaning the inflated belts feel no warmer on a wearer’s body than ambient temperature. The inflatable belts also fill at a lower pressure and slower rate than traditional airbags, because they do not need to close a gap between the belt and the occupant. The belt helps distribute crash force energy across five times more of the occupant’s torso than a traditional belt, which expands its range of protection and reduces risk of injury by diffusing crash pressure over a larger area, while providing additional support to the head and neck.