Ford Motor Company is offering its patented inflatable safety belt technology to other companies and industries, including competitive automotive manufacturers. The availability of licenses may lead to the wider adoption of inflatable safety belts as other automakers seek to enhance passenger safety. The technology is potentially applicable to other forms of seated-passenger transportation, including military use, and airborne passengers traveling by helicopter or airplane, and even for water travel.
"Ford’s longstanding commitment to democratizing technology goes beyond our customers,” said Bill Coughlin, president and CEO, Ford Global Technologies. “In this case, the wider adoption of inflatable safety belts has the potential to make travel safer and help mitigate passenger injuries – especially among children and the elderly.”
In everyday use, inflatable safety belts operate like conventional safety belts. In a crash, the inflatable safety belt deploys over a vehicle occupant’s torso and shoulder to help distribute crash forces up to five times more area than a traditional safety belt. Spreading the pressure over a larger area helps reduce pressure on the passenger’s chest, and helps control head and neck motion.
The inflatable safety belt is currently available on Ford Explorer, Flex, Fusion and the upcoming 2015 F-150, as well as Lincoln MKT and MKZ for outboard second-row seating positions.
In addition to this technology, Ford makes many other patented technologies available for license. Some examples of available safety-related technologies are:
Roll Stability Control continuously monitors the vehicle’s movement and its relationship to the road surface using a suite of vehicle dynamic sensors including roll rate. RSC automatically applies brakes and/or reduces engine power to help the driver avoid a potential rollover situation.
- “Surveillance mode” technology for Ford Police Interceptor was introduced to warn and help protect law enforcement officers from unexpected approaches to their vehicle from the rear.
Ford’s Belt-Minder system was credited by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety with increasing the buckle-up rate by reminding drivers with a persistent chime to wear their safety belts.
Ford’s driver alert warning system computes a driver’s “attention level” and displays it in the instrument cluster upon request. The system gauges the driver’s attention level based on statistical analysis of lane information collected by the forward-looking camera and the vehicle’s directional changes. If the calculated driver’s attention level falls below a certain threshold (potentially caused by a tired driver), visual and audible warnings are given
These and other technologies are available through Ford’s corporate Technology Licensing Portal.
Ford also purchased additional inflatable safety belt patents from United Technologies Corp. to help ensure that this technology could be broadly licensed. This effort was made easier with the help of AutoHarvest Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the adoption of new technologies by providing unprecedented access to innovators and businesses.
“We founded AutoHarvest with the hopes this type of technology sharing could be realized for the betterment of society,” said David E. Cole, co-founder and board chairman for AutoHarvest. “We are glad to be able to play a role in spreading this safety technology more broadly.”
Ford is a member of the AutoHarvest Innovation Advisory Council along with other leaders in the automotive industry, government and academic research. More information is available at http://autoharvest.org.