Ford will become the world’s first car maker to introduce inflatable seatbelts. The inflatable seatbelts will be fitted first on the Explorer SUV in North America next year and will be fitted for rear occupants only. Ford believes that often children and elderly passengers are more vulnerable to head, chest and neck injuries.
It is claimed that the inflatable belt will spread the crash force over five times the area of the body in comparison to a conventional belt reducing localized pressure on the chest and lessening the risk of injury further. The belt appears to be more comfortable to wear than the normal belt and it is hoped that it will also encourage more rear passengers to buckle up.
Ford has used a cold compressed gas which means occupants will not suffer ‘burns’ associated with airbag deployment. Airbags use a heat-generating chemical reaction to inflate rapidly, but as the seatbelt does not have a gap to quickly fill it can inflate slower and still be effective. Ford hope to introduce the inflatable seatbelt to Fords European models by 2011 initially as an option. "Ford's rear inflatable seat belt technology will enhance safety for rear-seat passengers of all ages, especially for young children who are more vulnerable in crashes," said Sue Cischke, Ford group vice president of Sustainability, Environmental and Safety Engineering.