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Ford’s World-First Rear Inflatable Seat Belts Earn Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award

What do Ford’s latest safety innovation and director/filmmaker James Cameron have in common? Both are about to receive a prestigious technology award from Popular Mechanics.

Ford’s innovative, industry-first rear inflatable seat belts have been named a Breakthrough Product Award winner by Popular Mechanics, part of the magazine’s seventh annual Breakthrough Awards.

Lead developer Srini Sundararajan will accept the prestigious honor at a ceremony tonight in New York City. The development of the technology was a team effort, Sundararajan says, and he’s proud that effort is being recognized.

“Ford’s goal is to develop innovative safety technologies that give our customers more peace of mind, so it is a great honor to receive the Breakthrough Technology Award,” says Sundararajan, safety technical leader for Ford Research and Innovation. “I thank Popular Mechanics for recognizing the contributions of a number of dedicated engineers from Ford.”

The rear inflatable seat belts are designed to provide additional protection for rear seat occupants. They combine the attributes of traditional seat belts and airbags to help provide an added level of crash safety protection for rear seat occupants. To view animation of the inflatable rear seat belt, click here.

The advanced restraint system is designed to help reduce head, neck and chest injuries for rear seat passengers, often children and older passengers who can be more vulnerable to such injuries. Ford introduced the inflatable rear seat belts in the 2011 Explorer, bolstering the Explorer’s already extensive suite of safety innovations. The vehicle already has seen strong demand from customers for its safety and driver-assist technologies.

Early data showed approximately 40 percent of Explorer buyers are parents who are ordering the rear inflatable belts.

The rear inflatable seat belt technology will be introduced in more vehicles globally.

World-changing innovations

Ford is traveling in fine company. The Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Awards are given in two categories: innovators, whose inventions will make the world smarter, safer and more efficient in the years to come; and products, which are setting benchmarks in design and engineering today.

Other winning products include smog-eating tile, a light bulb rated to burn for 25,000 hours, and a telescope equipped with built-in tracking cameras and a database of more than 4,000 heavenly objects so sighting stars takes less than three minutes.

Winning innovators include film director Cameron, who is being honored for his pioneering work in CGI for building the world’s most advanced 3D camera.

In selecting the candidates and winners of the 2011 Breakthrough Awards, the editors of Popular Mechanics canvassed a wide range of experts to come up with a list of worthy innovators, and then consulted dozens of past Breakthrough Award winners in fields ranging from aerospace and robotics to medicine and energy.

About Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F), a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 166,000 employees and about 70 plants worldwide, the company’s automotive brands include Ford and Lincoln. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford’s products, please visit

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