Though the risk of severe injuries to rear occupants is not as high as for those at the front, carmakers have not neglected ensuring that the people at back are also provided with sufficient restraint and protection. From simple 2-point restraints, Ford researchers improved on the original 3-point seatbelt that Volvo developed (and allowed all other carmakers to use it without licensing fees) to provide better restraint.
While front occupants can get enhanced protection from airbags, and curtain airbags dropping from above the windows add protection during side impacts, installing airbags for rear passengers has been a challenge.
Apart from the greater distance between the front seat and the rear occupant, there is also the issue of the position of the passenger which can vary. A wrongly positioned occupant could get injured by the airbag which inflates at an equivalent speed of over 200 km/h before it rapidly deflates. So safety researchers have focussed on other ways to improve safety for the rear passengers.
In 2004, Ford’s researchers displayed a prototype of an advanced type of seatbelt for rear passengers at an event in China.
This seatbelt, for passengers on the left and right sides, contained a small airbag which would inflate during a crash and provide extra cushioning. During a crash, sensors determine when the inflatable seatbelt should deploy and signal the integrated tubular airbag to rapidly inflate with compressed gas.
After 7 years of development and testing, Ford introduced the industry’s first inflatable seatbelts in its new Explorer SUV and began to offer it in other new models as they were launched. The new generation of the Mondeo is the latest model to have these advanced rear seatbelts.
“The inflatable belt 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,” said Srinivasan Sundararajan, Safety Technical Leader with Ford’s Research & Advanced Engineering Group. “This is another unique family technology that builds on our safety leadership.”
In everyday use, the inflatable seatbelt operate like the conventional 3-point type that is found in virtually every car today. They are compatible with childseats and boosters though parents are advised to refer to instructions and information by the childseat manufacturer. Safety experts acknowledge that the back seat is the safest place for children.,
Rear inflatable seatbelts combine the attributes of seatbelts and airbags. During a crash, the inflatable seatbelt helps distribute crash forces across more of a passenger’s torso than a traditional belt – up to 5 times more. Spreading the pressure over a larger area helps reduce pressure on the passenger’s chest, and helps control head and neck motion.
To know more about Ford models available in Malaysia, visit www.ford.net.my