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Mercedes to Debut Active Seat Belts

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author photo by Jeffrey Archer February 2012
  • The system includes electric motors for buckles.
  • Belt buckles will also be illuminated.
  • Mercedes says the system will debut this year.

Mercedes recently unveiled a new seat belt technology designed to increase the safety of rear seat passengers. The so-called active seat belts don't improve on the safety of standard belts, but instead provide several new functions designed to boost the percentage of rear passengers who buckle up.

The most important feature of the new active seat belts is an electric motor fitted to the belt buckle on each rear seat. When a rear door is opened, the motor will extend the buckle out from the seat, making it easier to locate. According to the automaker, the new feature makes it more convenient for rear passengers to wear seat belts, prompting them to buckle up.

But the active seat belt system uses more than just electric motors to incite rear passengers to fasten their belts. The system also includes illuminated belt buckles for each rear seat, which makes the buckles easier to locate in dim light. According to Mercedes, the illuminated buckles will work in combination with the electric motors to virtually eliminate the problem of frustrated rear passengers struggling to buckle up in the dark.

In addition its electric motors and illuminated belt buckles, the new active seat belts are also designed to motivate rear passengers to buckle up by making it more comfortable to do so. Mercedes says that once rear passengers are belted in, the electric motors retract to provide the perfect tension around the thorax and lower pelvis. That allows occupants to sit in a relaxed manner while still benefitting from the protection of the active seat belts.

The new active belts are also now a part of Mercedes' comprehensive PRE-SAFE system, which gives the rear belts all critical functions previously featured in the system's front seats. That means the belts will automatically tighten to protect occupants if the system detects an impending accident, then loosen immediately after the crash to allow occupants to exit as easily as possible.

Although Mercedes hasn't announced exactly when its new active seat belts will debut, the automaker promises they will be out by the end of 2012 in one of its luxury segment models. Our bet is on the S-Class, which is often the first model in Mercedes' lineup to receive the automaker's latest technology.

What it means to you: Don't be surprised to see active belts trickle down to other Mercedes models - and then to the competition.

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Mercedes to Debut Active Seat Belts - Autotrader