DEARBORN, MI - Ford Motor Company will introduce inflatable rear seat belts on the next-generation Ford Explorer, which goes into production next year for the North American market. Over time, Ford plans to offer the technology in vehicles globally.
The automotive inflatable seat belts combine attributes of traditional seat belts and air bags to provide an added level of crash safety protection for rear seat occupants. The advanced restraint system is designed to help reduce head, neck, and chest injuries for rear seat passengers, and will deploy over a vehicle occupant's torso and shoulder in 40 milliseconds in the event of a crash, said Ford.
Vehicle safety sensors determine the severity of the collision in the blink of an eye and deploy the inflatable belts' air bags. Each belt's tubular air bag inflates with cold compressed gas, which flows through a specially designed buckle from a cylinder housed below the seat.
The inflatable belt's accordion-folded bag breaks through the belt fabric as it fills with air, expanding sideways across the occupant's body in about the same amount of time it takes a car traveling at highway speed to cover a yard of distance.
The use of cold compressed gas instead of a heat-generating chemical reaction - which is typical of traditional air bag systems - means the inflated belts feel no warmer on the wearer's body than the ambient temperature. The inflatable belts also fill at a lower pressure and a slower rate than traditional air bags, because the device does not need to close a gap between the belt and the occupant.
The inflated belt helps distribute crash force energy across five times more of the occupant's torso than a traditional belt, which expands its range of protection and reduces risk of injury by diffusing crash pressure over a larger area, while providing additional support to the head and neck. After deployment, the belt remains inflated for several seconds before dispersing its air through the pores of the air bag.