Mercedes to belt up with airbags

NT News - Motoring - - CARS GUIDE - By STU­ART MARTIN

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.

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