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by Tim Beissmann

The Ford Explorer’s innovative rear inflatable seatbelt technology has earned a safety award at the New York International Auto Show, and Ford Australia says the technology is on its way Down Under.

The inflatable seatbelt – the first of its kind by an automotive manufacturer – won the World Traffic Safety Symposium’s 2011 Traffic Safety Achievement Award.

The seatbelt was also honoured around two weeks ago with the gold medal in the 2011 Edison Best New Product Award in the applied technology category.

The inflatable seatbelts operate like conventional belts in everyday conditions and are compatible with baby and booster seats.

In a frontal or side-on crash, the belt’s diameter expands to more effectively hold the occupant in the correct seating position.

The inflated belts distribute the crash force energy across five times more of the occupant’s torso, significantly reducing the risk of injury by diffusing the crash pressure over a larger area and providing added head and neck support.

Ford Australia’s Sinead McAlary said the local arm would be included in the global rollout of inflatable rear seatbelts “at some stage”, but admitted it would take some time for the technology to be developed for each specific vehicle.

“It is something – like all of the technology developed by Ford – that will be introduced globally, but this stage it is too early to talk about specific vehicles and timing,” Ms McAlary said.

She said the technology could be applied to all vehicle styles and said she was certain that it would be rolled out across Ford’s entire product line-up in the coming years.

Ms McAlary said Ford expected the technology to become widespread in the future, and likened it to standard vehicle airbags, which are now prevalent in even the most basic cars around the world.

The inflatable rear seatbelt is currently available as an option in the 2011 Ford Explorer in North America.




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