Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F), on Tuesday said it will offer rear inflatable safety belts in its 2014 Fusion model – the first model in the midsize segment to offer such a safety feature.
According to the Dearborn based automaker, the inflatable safety belts are the same in general as conventional belts, but in case of a crash the airbag that inflates will distribute crash forces across more of a passenger’s torso than a traditional belt – up to five times more. Spreading the pressure over a larger area helps reduce pressure on the passenger’s chest, and helps control head and neck motion. The main difference between a normal airbag and the airbag that is inside Ford’s seatbelt’s is that it uses cold-compressed gas for inflation instead of a heat-generating chemical reaction.
Gas flows through the novel buckle from a cylinder housed below the seat. Because the device doesn’t need to fill a spatial gap between the belt and the occupant, the inflatable belt is able to fill more slowly and at lower pressure than traditional airbags.
Ford has done extensive testing with the belts to confirm their potential to reduce crash forces and movement, and it was the first automaker to introduce this technology – more precisely in its 2011 Explorer model. At this moment, besides the upcoming 2014 Fusion model, the U.S. based automaker is offering this safety feature on six Ford and Lincoln models: Ford Explorer, Fusion, Flex, Taurus and Lincoln MKT and Lincoln MKZ.
Over time, Ford plans to offer the technology in vehicles globally.
However, today, only 61% of rear-seat passengers in the U.S. are buckling up, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The mid-sized car segment is the biggest single segment for U.S. light-vehicle sales, accounting for about 24% of sales through July and it is a segment where every manufacturer has updated its vehicles in recent years.