FORD RESEARCHES POSSIBLE NEXT-GENERATION SAFETY BELT TECHNOLOGYDEARBORN, Mich., Dec. 29, 2007 – Responding to the changing demographics of today's driving population, Ford Motor Company is researching two advanced next-generation safety belt technologies that could help further reduce injury risk in vehicle crashes.
One of Ford’s possible next-generation safety belts incorporates a four-point “belt and suspenders” design in lieu of the familiar three-point safety belt, while a second possible future safety belt incorporates an air bag directly into the belt itself. A number of technical challenges still need to be overcome before such restraint systems could ever be used, but these technologies might one day further enhance safety belt effectiveness.
Inflatable Safety Belts
As its name suggests, the inflatable rear safety belt fills with air during a crash, enhancing protection for the rear seat passenger.
A strap of air bag material is hidden in the seat belt webbing. The strap inflates into a cylindrical shape when frontal air bags deploy. The concept of inflatable belts is to spread forces from a vehicle crash over a broader section of the body than traditional safety belts, further helping to reduce the pressure on the chest and helping to control the motion of the head and neck.
Early research has shown that the inflatable belt may be effective for enhancing protection of the occupants in the rear seat. Preliminary consumer research indicated that the thicker safety belt (when not inflated) seemed more comfortable to some people, as compared with a standard safety belt, because customers said it felt like it was padded.
Four-Point Safety Belts
Recent customer research showed Ford scientists and engineers that some consumers perceive four-point belts to be safer, as well as more comfortable and, depending on their design, easier to use than traditional three-point belts.
Ford scientists are using this feedback – and the correlating data – as research continues on this potential safety belt of the future.
While the four-point safety belt currently is not allowed by Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208, Ford Motor Company so far holds two patents for the new technology. In addition, Ford is working with lawmakers to demonstrate the benefits of this new four-point safety belt technology.
Said Dr. Priya Prasad, Ford Technical Fellow for Safety, "Even with the variety of advanced features and technologies offered on today's vehicles, the single most important piece of safety technology in a car or truck remains the safety belt. That's why we're working hard to further improve safety belt and restraint technologies in the future.