Mercedes to belt up with airbags
FORD and Lexus have tinkered with airbag-equipped seatbelts; now safety gurus at Mercedes-Benz will put them into its top-end models.
The new seatbelt safety system was first offered as an option in the US Ford Explorer in 2010 and is expected in the new Ford Mondeo next year.
Ford says the seatbag system spreads the force of an impact across five times the area a normal seatbelt could manage.
Lexus’ V10 super coupe, the LFA, has seatbelt airbags for its two occupants that work in a different manner to the Ford and Benz examples.
The Lexus system has an inflatable seatbelt (with a gas inflator in the buckle) and separate lap-sash belt, which separate during inflation.
Mercedes-Benz has not nominated a specific model for the technology’s arrival in the three-pointed-star range, but the S-Class has brought key safety technologies to market previously — airbags, anti-lock brakes and stability control, to name a few — so the next S-Class (also a 2013 prospect) is a good bet.
The inflatable seatbelt strap reduces injury risk by spreading any impact’s force across a broader area of the rear passenger’s chest.
The beltbag is triggered by the same system that controls the rest of the car’s airbags, inflating the multilayered belt strap through Velcro seams to almost three times the seatbelt’s normal width, says Benz.
The German brand’s burgeoning markets in China and Russia have higher rear seat occupancy rates — as high as 30 per cent— resulting in the inclusion of more safety features for rear-seatdwellers.
Benz says the inclusion of rear seatbelts with pretensioners and load limiters in current models, as well as developments like the recently unveiled active seatbelt buckle (that pops out of the seat when the doors are opened and then retracts a little to tighten seatbelts), is evidence the company is not ignoring the back seat bigwigs.
The brand says there are no plans to introduce a front seat seatbelt airbag.