Ford seatbelt.automotiveIT

Ford first introduced the inflatable seatbelt on the 2011 Explorer in the US (Photo: Ford)

Ford will introduce an inflatable rear seatbelt in Europe next year, when it launches the latest version of its Mondeo sedan.

The US carmaker said the airbag-seatbelt combination will help reduce head, neck and chest injuries because it disperses crash forces over a greater area of a passenger's body.

The technology isn't new, but it will be new to the European market. In the US, Ford introduced inflatable seatbelts as an option on the 2011 Ford Explorer. It said 40 pc of buyers paid for the innovation.

In addition to the European Ford Mondeo, the 2013 Ford Flex and next year's Lincolns will also get the inflatable seatbelts in the North American market.

The new rear seatbelt inflates in a crash situation when special sensors detect an accident. Deployment takes less than 40 milliseconds.

Joerg Doering, a seatbelt specialist at Ford of Europe, said the inflatable belt brings extra protection to passengers who are particularly vulnerable in a crash. “It provides extra support to the head and neck and so is especially effective when worn by young children or the elderly occupants," he said in a press release.

Ford has been rolling out a broad range of electronic safety improvements and the carmaker said the new systems have been well received by customers. The company said 87 pc of the first 19,000 Explorers sold were equipped with rear view cameras, 40 pc had blind spot detection systems and 22 pc featured adaptive cruise control.