In a move Ford says is to increase overall vehicle safety, the company is offering its patented inflatable seatbelt technology to its competitors as well as other industries that would benefit from the safety innovation. Among other transportation sectors Ford believes would benefit from inflatable seatbelts are military suppliers, airplane manufacturers, and even boat makers.
The inflatable seatbelts are used in rear seats, keeping occupants safe during a crash. The innovation means that crash forces are distributed over a larger area, reducing the risk of injury from the device that was designed to save lives. This is of course a high concern for younger passengers who use seatbelts, as well as the elderly. As the seatbelt inflates, it is also supposed to keep the head more stationary, reducing head and neck injuries.
The announcement from Ford and its subsequent self-congratulatory celebration are interesting to observe, especially considering the history of the seatbelt. Volvo invented the three-point belt, which has been credited for saving countless lives. Instead of selling the patent for the safety technology to other automakers, Volvo instead literally gave it away for free in an act of goodwill toward humanity. Of course, that was hardly the last safety innovation to come from Volvo, but it certainly was its most influential and the automaker could have made considerable money by choosing to sell the patent to other automakers.
The inflatable seatbelt technology is just one of several Ford technologies it is willing to sell the patent for. Among these proprietary technologies is a seatbelt reminder chime that will not shut up if you don’t buckle up and a system that displays how alert the driver is on the instrument cluster, for the driver to read.