While seatbelts have saved countless lives since being made mandatory, many people will argue they can cause just as many injuries as they prevent. Ford has decided to solve this problem by installing air-bags directly into the seatbelt.
Traditional air-bags use a chemical reaction to produce heat, which in turn causes air to expand and inflate the airbags. The new seatbelt air-bags use a compressed gas kept at a very low temperature which is then released. By using the compressed gas rather than chemicals, the risk of problems occurring during an accident are significantly reduced.
Interestingly enough, initial testing by Ford has also yielded an interesting side effect. Many of the test subjects have said the new seatbelts are much more comfortable due to being softer and offering a larger contact area. Ford claims this will help to increase the use of rear seatbelts, as well as reduce the risk of injury to both children and the elderly. The air-bags will also decrease the number of injuries to the chest, neck and head to passengers riding in the rear seats.
The technology is expected to debut on the next generation Ford Explorer set to enter production in 2010. The seatbelt air-bags will eventually make their way into nearly every Ford vehicle.Popular Science