These days airbags are expected in all new cars, from dual airbags in the front, front seat side airbags and curtain airbags to cover the side windows. Now Ford has designed an airbag incorporated into the seat belt for passengers in the back seat.

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The belt is the same width as a regular belt, but is slightly thicker because the inflatable bag is inside. The seat belt and buckle operate the same as a normal belt does even though the gas travels through the buckle into the belt, this has been patented by Ford.

In an impact of a certain force the bag inflates splitting the belt down the side, the air bag is approximately the size of a loaf of bread.

"The belt is designed to spread the crash forces across an area five times larger than that of a regular seat belt," said Mr Paul Mascarenas, Ford vice president of engineering and global product development.

Ford hasn't released the price of this optional safety device, or which cars it will be available in. Sue Cischke, Ford vice president of safety engineering, said that it would be affordable and that Ford plan to offer it in Europe and Asia.

The engineers at Ford have spent the last eight years developing this system.

by Adam Marshall