Taking a very well-worn page from their Swedish subsidiary’s book, Ford unveiled today the newest innovation in passive safety technology: the world’s first inflatable seat belt. Set to appear for the first time in the 2011 Ford Explorer, Ford claims the new belt combine the most important safety components of an airbag and a seat belt to create the ultimate exercise in overprotective motoring. When deployed, the discreetly folded airbag breaks through the belt and inflates across the passenger’s chest, increasing the diameter of the seat belt and allowing it to act more effectively as a restraining device. “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.
Unlike the death trap for children both seat belts and airbags are often demonized as, Ford’s Inflat-o-Belt (we want credit for that Ford) is safe for use by young children or malnourished adults and supposedly fits more comfortably than a traditional belt. “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,” explained Paul Mascarenas, Ford vice president, Engineering, Global Product Development.