Another layer of seatbelt safety.
CarBuzz has discovered a new patent filed by Ford for a vibrating seatbelt buckle. The application was filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office on 26 January 2023. It seems 2023 is the year of the seatbelt, as last month, ZF released new technology for heated seatbelts that will soon replace heated seats in EVs.
The idea is to add another seatbelt reminder to their cars in addition to the already standard warning tone and display in the instrument cluster. Having said that, this particular system is a bit more advanced as it was designed to ensure the belt is properly connected to the buckle.
A standard seatbelt assembly consists of four components. There's the webbing, seatbelt retractor, D-Ring, and buckle. The main focus here is the buckle, which is physically connected to one of the strongest structural points of the vehicle.
Ford's idea is to install a vibrating mechanism in the buckle, obviously connected to various sensors. The vibrating buckle will start shimmying as soon as a driver or passenger removes the webbing from the fully retracted position. The car will activate the vibrating buckle until it detects a fully clipped-in D-Ring.
It will also stop vibrating once the webbing returns to its retracted position. According to Ford, this system can be implemented in any ground vehicle, including its passenger and commercial offerings. It would be especially useful in a family car like the Ford Expedition or a high-performance automobile like the Mustang.
This may seem like another pointless system, but it has two critical applications we can think of.
First, the D-Ring may not always be adequately connected to the buckle. We've all been in a rush, pushing the D-Ring into the clip without checking whether it's properly secured. Ideally, you always want to give the belt a tug or two to ensure everything is connected correctly, but then the five-year-old in the back starts screaming for a Capri Sun. It might be connected enough to shut off the warning tones and lights, but it will be useless in an accident.
Secondly, it will help drivers and passengers locate the buckle in the dark. Sure, cars have interior lights, but the light often doesn't filter down to the space between the seat and the armrest where the buckle is located. A buckle buzzing away will be much easier to find.
There's no timeline attached to this patent, but it seems relatively easy to implement. This is definitely one patent that's not entirely bonkers but will likely make it into production.
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