Ford and Volvo to Develop Four-Point Seat Belts
Volvo Car Corp. and Ford Motor Co. are collaborating on what could be next most important auto safety feature -- a four-point seat belt.
The advantages of a four-point seat belt are that they distribute the crash forces over more of the chest, which reduces the pressure on the ribcage, heart and lungs. They also help hold the occupant in place during crashes that put limitations on today’s belt designs.
Two styles are being evaluated: the “X4” and “V4” designs. Both have the same objective, with different solutions. The “X4” belt system uses a standard three-point belt plus a single belt that comes over the shoulder, down across the torso and attaches near the lap belt buckle. The “V4” is a modified design with roots in auto racing. Occupant fitting is as simple as putting on a backpack. It’s as simple as over the shoulder/over the shoulder and click. Both designs have shown to be effective in rollover and side impact during laboratory tests.
A major unknown about four-point belts is how users would accept them. “During the Detroit International Auto Show, Ford Motor Co. asked attendees to assess ease of use and comfort for both styles. This is perhaps the first use of an auto show to conduct one-on-one safety research. We were eager to watch people’s reactions and discuss their concerns,” comments David Wagner, Ford safety technical specialist. The answer? “Consumers were excited about the prospects of additional safety benefits from the four-point belt. We’re still weighing the advantages of both designs.”
“While a few engineering challenges remain, I believe we’ll have something in the next three years that meets the expectations of our engineering teams in Sweden and Dearborn and, of course, those of our customers,” states Christer Gustafsson, Volvo Car Co. senior safety engineer. “In the near future, we will be entering into discussions with regulatory agencies around the world, including the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), to discuss our findings and the regulatory implications of four-point belts.”