Mike Stevens | Nov 6, 2009

DESIGNED TO ENHANCE rear passenger safety, Ford has today unveiled the first passenger-car seatbelt airbags, due for production late next year.

In the event of a front or side impact, the seatbelt airbag will inflate in 40 milliseconds, distributing the force across an area five times greater than a regular seatbelt.

Unlike regular airbags which use a heat-generating chemical reaction - and because of the unique shape and properties of seatbelts - the seatbelt airbags are inflated through a cold compressed gas system.

Because the seatbelt airbag does not need to fill an area as great as the distance between a body and the dash or steering wheel, the seatbelt airbags inflate slower and to a lower pressure than regular airbags.

The seatbelt airbags are scheduled to appear in the next generation Ford Explorer, expanding to the carmaker's global range soon after. Ford Australia was unavailable for comment this morning.

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