Inflatable seatbelts: coming to a big rig near you?

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Since 2010, Ford Motor Co. has offered a proprietary inflatable seatbelt for its Explorer sport utility vehicles (SUV), Flex crossover, Fusion sedan, as well as on the Lincoln MKT and MKZ luxury models for outboard second-row seating positions.

You will also find these inflatable belts as a standard feature on the soon-to-be-released 2015 model F-150 pickup.

Now, however, Ford is taking this technology a step further by patenting it – thus making it widely available for a variety of applications, such as military vehicles, airborne passengers traveling by helicopter or airplane, even boats.

Might one day inflatable seatbelts make their way into the cabs of commercial trucks? That remains to be seen, but as it is a technology that can significantly boost both passenger and driver safety, it most certainly will get the attention of big rig makers.

Ford noted that, in everyday use, inflatable safety belts operate like conventional safety belts. However, in a crash, the inflatable safety belt deploys over a vehicle occupant’s torso and shoulder to help distribute crash forces up to five times more area than a traditional safety belt.

Thus, spreading the pressure over a larger area helps reduce pressure on the passenger’s chest, and helps control head and neck motion.

As you can tell, this technology is largely aimed at passenger protection. But who knows? If it can be tweaked and then serve to improve protection for truck drivers, so much the better.

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