Ford Introduces Industry's First Inflatable Seat Belts to Enhance Rear Seat Safety

Thu Nov 5, 2009 11:00am EST

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Ford Introduces Industry's First Inflatable Seat Belts to Enhance Rear Seat

DEARBORN, Mich., Nov. 5 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ --

    --  Ford introduces the auto industry's first-ever production inflatable
        seat belts, which are designed to provide additional protection for
        rear-seat occupants, often children and older passengers who can be
        vulnerable to head, chest and neck injuries

    --  Ford's inflatable rear seat belts will debut on the next-generation
        Explorer sport utility vehicle, which goes into production next year;
        Ford eventually plans to offer inflatable seat belt technology in
        vehicles globally

    --  Ford's inflatable rear seat belts spread crash forces over five times
        more area of the body than conventional seat belts; this helps reduce
        pressure on the chest and helps control head and neck motion for rear
        seat passengers

    --  More than 90 percent of Ford research participants indicated that
        inflatable seat belts are similar to or more comfortable than
        traditional belts, which could help increase the lower rate of rear

Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) is bringing to market the world's first
automotive inflatable seat belts, combining 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, often children and older passengers who can
be more vulnerable to such injuries.

Ford 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.

"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.  "This is another unique family
technology that builds on our safety leadership, including the most top safety
ratings of any automaker."

Safer and more comfortable
Advances in air bag inflation and seat belt construction methods have enabled
Ford and its suppliers to develop inflatable seat belts that are designed to
deploy over a vehicle occupant's torso and shoulder in 40 milliseconds in the
event of a crash.

In everyday use, the inflatable belts operate like conventional seat belts and
are safe and compatible with infant and children safety car and booster seats.
 In Ford's research, more than 90 percent of those who tested the inflatable
seat belts found them to be similar to or more comfortable than a conventional
belt because they feel padded and softer.  That comfort factor could help
improve the 61 percent rear belt usage rate in the U.S., which compares to 82
percent usage by front seat passengers, according National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration data.

"Ford is pioneering inflatable seat belt technology to help enhance crash
safety protection, while encouraging more people to buckle up with a more
comfortable belt," said Paul Mascarenas, Ford vice president, Engineering,
Global Product Development.

In the event of a frontal or side crash, the inflatable belt's increased
diameter more effectively holds the occupant in the appropriate seating
position, helping to reduce the risk of injury.

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.

"It's a very simple and logical system, but it required extensive trial and
error and testing over several years to prove out the technology and ensure
precise reliable performance in a crash situation," said Srini Sundararajan,
safety technical leader for Ford research and advance engineering.

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.

Ford's safety leadership record continues to grow
The inflatable seat belt debuting on the next-generation Ford Explorer
continues Ford's record of safety innovation.  Ford today has more 5-star U.S.
government ratings and "Top Safety Picks" from the Insurance Institute for
Highway Safety than any other automaker.

Ford was the first automaker to introduce seat belts in 1955 and led the way
in making driver and front-passenger air bags standard in most vehicles by

This year, Ford introduced radar-enabled Adaptive Cruise Control with
Collision Warning with Brake Support and Blind Spot Information System (BLISĀ®)
with Cross Traffic Alert (CTA).  These technologies - introduced on the new
2010 Ford Taurus and Fusion - help drivers avoid potential dangerous crash
situations using radar to detect the relative position of other vehicles and
warn the driver with a combination of visual and audio alerts.

Ford's other recent seat belt and air bag innovations include the
industry-first BeltMinder system in 2000, which the U.S. government credited
with increasing front belt usage by 5 percent in Ford vehicles.  On the 2002
Explorer, Ford launched the industry's first rollover-activated side curtain
air bags - called Safety Canopy - as well as Roll Stability Control technology
that goes a step beyond traditional stability control systems by helping
measure and prevent side-to-side skidding and dangerous situations that could
lead to rollovers.

Ford also introduced on the 2009 F-150 and 2010 Taurus some of the industry's
first pressure-based air bag technologies that help deploy side air bags up to
30 percent faster.

About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn,
Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With
about 200,000 employees and about 90 plants worldwide, the company's
automotive brands include Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and Volvo. The company
provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company.  For more
information regarding Ford's products, please visit

SOURCE  Ford Motor Company

Wesley Sherwood, +1-313-390-5660,
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