Ford to introduce inflatable seatbeltsThu, 05 Nov 2009 00:00:00 -0800
When the 2011 Ford Explorer hits showrooms, its move to a unibody platform won't be the only major change. Ford will use the next-generation Explorer to introduce inflatable seatbelts for rear passengers.
According to Ford, the inflatable seatbelt will help distribute crash forces across five times more body area, compared with traditional seatbelts. The combination of airbag technology and a seatbelt is expected to reduce head, neck and chest injuries, especially in children and older occupants.
In event of a crash, the seatbelt airbag takes just 40 milliseconds to inflate across the passenger's torso and shoulder. Instead of using a heat-generating chemical reaction common on front- and side-airbag systems, the seatbelts are inflated with cold-compressed gas stored in a cylinder beneath the seats.
At all other times, the inflatable seatbelts can be used just like a normal seatbelt. They are compatible with infant safety and booster seats and were found to be more comfortable to 90 percent of the test subjects Ford polled because of the softer and padded feel. The added comfort may go a long way toward increasing rear seatbelt usage in the United States, which stands at 61 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The inflatable seatbelts will be offered as an option on the 2011 Explorer, but Ford plans to eventually offer them on vehicles around the world.
By Jonathan Wong