Occupant Protection Technologies

Many factors influence a vehicle’s crash performance, including the design of the vehicle’s structure (i.e., its ability to absorb impact energy) and the use of passive safety equipment such as air bags to supplement safety belts. Ford’s commitment to advancing the state-of-the-art in vehicle safety includes research and development of technologies that further enhance occupant protection in a wide variety of crash circumstances.

For example, Ford is using more advanced and ultra-high-strength steels than ever, as well as researching other advanced materials. Increased use of these materials helps us design vehicle structures with enhanced crash energy management while minimizing vehicle weight – even as we add more features, equipment and safety devices. For example, the all-new Ford B-MAX in Europe uses 58 percent high-strength steels in its body shell and doors. Similarly, in the U.S., the body structure of the Ford Focus is constructed of 55 percent high-strength materials.

Ford inflatable safety belts combine the attributes of traditional safety belt and air bag technologies to help further reduce the risk of head, neck and chest injuries for rear-seat passengers.

For the vehicles of tomorrow, Ford is conducting extensive research into the potential use of other advanced materials (e.g., aluminum, magnesium and composites, among others) in our vehicle architectures. Use of these types of materials will enable us to further reduce vehicle weight while maintaining our commitment to high-levels of occupant protection in a wide variety of real-world crash conditions.

Safety belts remain the most important vehicle safety technology available. In the 2011 model year, Ford brought to market the world’s first automotive rear inflatable safety belts, which resulted in several prestigious awards for technological achievement. The rear inflatable safety belts combine the attributes of traditional safety belt and air bag technologies to help further reduce the risk of head, neck and chest injuries for rear-seat passengers.

Rear inflatable belts are designed to deploy over a vehicle occupant’s torso and shoulder in less than 40 milliseconds in the event of a crash. Each belt’s tubular air bag inflates with cold compressed gas. The inflatable belt distributes crash force energy across the occupant’s torso, helping to further reduce the risk of injury. In everyday use, the inflatable belts operate like conventional safety belts and are safe and compatible with infant and child safety car and booster seats. In Ford’s research, more than 90 percent of those who tested the inflatable safety belts found them to be similar to, or more comfortable than, a conventional belt.

Rear-seat inflatable safety belts are available in North America on the 2013 Ford Explorer, Ford Flex, Lincoln MKT and Lincoln MKZ. Plans are in place to introduce them into other markets as well.

Finally, Ford’s Personal Safety System™ is a network of components that, during frontal collisions, can adapt the deployment strategy of the front airbags to the crash severity and occupant conditions. The system’s restraint control module (RCM) translates information collected by the front crash sensors, front outboard safety belt buckle switches, driver-seat track position and passenger seat weight sensor. Using this information, the RCM activates the safety belt pretensioners and determines how the dual-stage front airbags will deploy, adapting the release of the airbags to the size and position of the front seat occupants. In North America, the Personal Safety System is standard on nearly all Ford and Lincoln vehicles, including the 2013 Ford C-MAX, Edge, Escape, Explorer, F-150, Flex, Focus, Fusion, Mustang and Taurus and the Lincoln MKS, MKT, MKX and MKZ.


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