Inflatable seat belts visible in the ESV 2009 concept (Photo : Daimler AG)
Daimler AG has announced that an upcoming Mercedes model will feature inflatable seat belts - or "Beltbags" - in the rear seat.
The belt is intended to lessen the strain on the wearers' ribcage widening the belt's surface area. Airbags fulfill this purpose for front-seat passengers.
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In the event of a head-on collision, crash sensors will trigger deployment of the Beltbag, which is inflated by a gas generator. Even without being inflated, the seat belt has extra-soft edges and is more comfortable than a regular seat belt, Daimler says.
The Beltbag was used in the ESF 2009 concept model. It has not been announced which production model it will include it as an option, but Mercedes has indicated it will be one of the higher-end vehicles in the company's fleet.
Mercedes has also said that the Beltbag was carried out with an eye toward "new markets". This presumably includes China, which is rapidly growing in size as a market for all car manufacturers. In these new markets, Mercedes says, cars are 30 percent more likely to carry passengers in their backseats.
Rear seat belts became available as an option in the Ford Explorer in 2011, and will be an option in the 2013 Ford Flex and Lincoln MKT. There are some who look warily at them, worrying that there has been insufficient testing, particularly as regards their interaction with child safety seats.
However, Consumer Reports last year declared itself satisfied with the testing process carried out by Ford. Mercedes stresses that it has carried out comprehensive testing that includes both dummy and computer-generated testing.