Mike Stevens | Jul 24, 2012

Inflatable seatbelts have been trialled in airliners, Lexus debuted them in its groundbreaking LFA supercar, and Ford launched its own version as an option in the US-market Explorer.

Now, Mercedes-Benz has confirmed it will bring its own version in 2013, potentially making it the first prestige brand to offer the technology in a series-production passenger car.

Mercedes hasn't confirmed which model the 'beltbag' will debut with, but it is likely that the new S-Class, due next year, will be the first to gain the system.

The technology works much the same as a conventional airbag, triggering in the event of an impact.

In the case of the beltbags, the system will only activate with severe frontal collisions, where they will be most effective.

Seatbelts fitted with the beltbags will feature a velcro cover, which splits open in an impact as the belt expands to three times its normal width.

The wider belt will distribute the force of the crash across a larger area, reducing the risk of severe chest injuries.

Mercedes says its research has shown that the added thickness of the belt also improves comfort during normal usage.

The system will launch in new markets first, likely starting with China, where the brand's customers prefer to travel in the back row - where the system will initially be fitted.

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