Mercedes-Benz has announced it has developed an inflatable rear-seat shoulder belt that is expected to be introduced in the new S-Class that will launch next year and subsequently find its way into other vehicles in the corporate lineup. Similar in concept to the system pioneered by Ford and now available in several of its vehicles, M-B's new “Beltbag” is designed to help reduce the chance of upper torso injuries in a severe head-on collision by reducing the amount of localized stress placed on the passenger's ribcage.
Originally seen on the automaker's ESF 2009 Experimental Safety Vehicle, the Beltbag is activated whenever the car's crash sensors detect a front impact that exceeds a pre-set threshold. At that point, the integrated controller unit triggers a gas generator that inflates the multi-layer belt strap, expanding it to nearly three times its normal width and effectively dissipating forces acting on the passenger's chest over a far wider surface area. Like its Ford counterpart, M-B's Beltbag is designed to function like a conventional restraint under less stressful circumstances. Mercedes notes that the Beltbag earned high marks for comfort during testing with humans and features an extra-soft belt-strap edge.