January 2, 2008

Ford researches possible next-generation seatbelt technology

Ford is experimenting with four-point seatbelt technology
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Dearborn, Michigan – Ford has announced it is researching two advanced next-generation seatbelt technologies that could help further reduce injury risk in vehicle crashes. The systems are a four-point belt design and inflatable rear seatbelts.

The four-point “belt and suspenders” design replaces the current three-point safety belt; Ford says that recent customer research found that some consumers perceive four-point belts to be safer, more comfortable and, depending on their design, easier to use than traditional three-point belts. While four-point belts are currently not allowed by Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208, Ford holds two patents for the technology and says it is working with lawmakers to demonstrate its benefits.

The inflatable safety belts fill with air during a crash, enhancing protection for the rear seat passenger. The webbing contains a strap of airbag material which inflates into a cylindrical shape when frontal airbags deploy, spreading forces from the vehicle crash over a broader section of the body, and further helping to reduce pressure on the chest and control motion of the head and neck.

Ford says that a number of technical challenges still need to be overcome before either restrain system could be used, but that the technologies may eventually enhance safety belt effectiveness. “Even with the variety of advanced features and technologies offered on today’s vehicles, the single most important piece of safety technology in a car or truck remains the safety belt,” said Dr. Priya Prasad, Ford Technical Fellow for Safety. “That’s why we’re working hard to further improve safety belt and restraint technologies in the future.”

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