Ford isn’t the only automaker to offer inflatable restraints embedded within rear seat belts. Mercedes-Benz announced today it would offer a similar system – billed as BeltBag – in a “luxury-class” vehicle in the near future.
Originally previewed in the S-Class-based ESF 2009 safety car concept, the BeltBag system essentially embeds an airbag into the webbing and layers of a standard seatbelt. When a collision occurs, a gas generator inflates the bag within the belt strap, allowing it to inflate to three times its normal width. The increased surface area allows for improved distribution of force across the occupant’s body, and theoretically reduces the risk of injury.
Much like Ford’s system, the BeltBag will only be installed for rear-seat passengers – in Benz’s words, front-seat occupants already have airbags included as a supplementary restraint.
This isn’t the first advanced rear-seat safety device we’ve seen from Mercedes-Benz. In February, the company showcased its Active Belt Buckle system, which will likely be paired with the BeltBag system. ABB buckles contain an electric motor, which extends the buckles 2.8 inches from the seats once the rear doors are opened, aiding passengers in securing their seat belt. Once buckled, the ABB then retracts to its original position to minimize slack. When paired with Mercedes-Benz’s PRE-SAFE system, the buckle can further retract another 1.6 inches once a collision is deemed likely, allowing for increased pre-collision belt tensioning.
Although Daimler’s official release doesn’t mention any particular application, sources close to the automaker tell us we should see the BeltBag system debut on the next-generation S-Class sedan, which is supposed to debut in the first half of 2013. We wouldn’t be surprised if the feature then spreads to the likes of the CL and CLS ranges before possibly trickling down through the remainder of the Mercedes-Benz portfolio.