Ford has launched an inflatable seatbelt, claiming the device is the first-of-its-kind.
Combining a seatbelt with an airbag the technology, designed primarily to reduce injuries among both young and elderly passengers, will go into production on the next-generation Ford Explorer SUV, next year.
The inflatable seatbelt will then be rolled out in models wordwide, says Sue Cischke, the car maker’s safety chief.
Under development since 1998, the system is designed specifically for the back seat, where passengers more prone to injury are likely to sit.
While the belt initially looks much like a conventional 3-point harness, it’s actually a bit larger and softer. That’s because it hides a balloon-like airbag that runs the length of the upper portion. When the vehicle’s crash sensors detect an impact, typically of at least eight mph, a highly compressed mixture of argon and helium gas is released from a small tank under the seat. By comparison, a conventional airbag uses a pyrotechnic inflator, so the gases would be too hot to hold so close to the chest.