Rapid Expansion? Ford Hopes to License Its Seat-Belt Airbag Tech

Ford hoping for widespread inflation—of its safety belt technology

Ford Motor Company is offering to license its patented inflatable safety-belt technology to other automakers—and even other industries—“to encourage expanded adoption” of the technology.

Ford first introduced the inflatable safety belts for the outboard second-row seats of the Explorer for 2011, and currently offers the feature on the Explorer, Flex, and Fusion, the Lincoln MKT and MKZ, and the upcoming 2015 Ford F-150 pickup. Ford claims that wider adoption of inflatable safety belts could also make traveling safer in other forms of transportation, including military vehicles, aircraft, boats, and more.

For those who haven’t seen one, an inflatable belt looks just like a normal seatbelt, only with a shoulder strap that’s a little bit thicker because, well, there’s an airbag in it. Ford claims that 90 percent of those who sampled the belt consider it to be as comfortable or even more comfortable due to the extra padding.

We imagine they would find it even more comfortable in a severe-enough crash, when, in the span of 40 milliseconds, the bag breaks through the stitching in the belt and deploys across the occupant’s torso and shoulder, helping distribute deceleration forces over up to five times more area than a traditional belt. This helps reduce pressure on the passenger’s chest, and also helps control head and neck motion, says Ford.

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Ford provides no stats on lives saved or décolletages left unchafed in accidents, but says that the technology makes automotive travel safer, particularly for children and the elderly. There’s no word on any potential takers for the technology—automotive, aeronautical, or otherwise—but we’ll be watching to see where the technology expands next.

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