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AUTO NEWS: Inflatable seat belts to debut in 2011 Ford Explorer

DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. said Thursday that its new inflatable seat belts will provide additional safety for rear seat passengers, especially children and the elderly, who more frequently sit in the back rows of cars and trucks.

DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. said Thursday that its new inflatable seat belts will provide additional safety for rear seat passengers, especially children and the elderly, who more frequently sit in the back rows of cars and trucks.

"This really is about improving family safety," said Sue Cischke, Ford group vice president of sustainability, environmental and safety engineering.

Ford unveiled its new inflatable seat belts Thursday in Dearborn, Mich. The company said the system marks an opportunity for Ford to turn its efforts on improving occupant safety to the passengers who sit in the back of vehicles.

Paul Mascarenas, Ford's vice president of engineering and global product development, said the inflated belt helps distribute the force of an impact across five times more of the occupant's torso than a traditional belt.

The belt, which is inflated by a cold gas that flows through a tube in the seat belt, expands the range of protection and reduces risk of injury by diffusing crash pressure over a larger area, he said.

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Ford said it plans to introduce the system next year as an option when it launches the redesigned 2011 Ford Explorer. Over time, Ford plans to roll out the technology on most of its cars and trucks. Ford executives declined to disclose how much it will cost or the supplier it worked with to develop the system.

"It is going to be affordable and I think you will be surprised when you see the price," Cischke said.

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