Ford's inflatable seat belt
The 2013 Ford Flex will join the Explorer in offering the belts, which Ford says has been outfitted on about 40 percent of all the Explorers it's sold thus far since its redesign late last year.
The new belts are only offered in the Explorer's second-row seat. When not inflated, they're softer than standard belts, which Ford says could help boost rear-seatbelt usage from 61 percent today, to the 82-percent rate observed for front-seat passengers by the National Traffic Highway Administration (NHTSA).
However, when an accident triggers the front airbags, the rear inflatable belts are also triggered, cushioning occupants better than a conventional belt can, Ford says.
Ford also says Lincoln vehicles due to go on sale next summer will offer the belts, but didn't specify which Lincolns. The MKT crossover shares its platform with the Flex, and could be a candidate, at least in passenger versions (not in commercial or black-car versions introduced this year).
The other Lincoln vehicle could be the brand's MKS sedan, which is due for a refresh. Both the updated MKT and MKS are said to be on the list of introductions coming to this fall's 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show.