Ford has filed an application for a floor-mounted air bag system that would surround passengers on all sides during a collision.
The C-shaped curtain air bags would be designed to protect passengers in frontal and side impacts, according to the patent application.
Housed underneath the floor, the air bags would deploy like those already on the market — when sensors detect a crash. They would be made to inflate at least up to the top of the seats and possibly extend further up to the vehicle roof. Extending to the roof could perhaps have the additional capability to keep cargo in the back of vans, SUVs, and some pickup trucks. Protection from cargo isn’t specifically mentioned in the patent application.
On impact, a set of tubes would straighten to extend the leg compartment forward and provide room for the air bags to inflate.
They may only partially inflate, for example, at just the feet or the head of the passengers, depending on the type and severity of the collision. In some collisions, a pillow may extend from above the leg compartment extension, aligned with the head and thorax, to prevent injuries to those parts of the body.
The seats would be attached to a rotating platform to which fasteners would connect the air bags, allowing them to rotate with the seats. The seats could be interchanged with personal mobility devices, such as a wheelchair, that would lock into the floor.
While described to work in any vehicle — commercial or passenger — the patent specifically mentions autonomous vehicles equipped with seats free to rotate during the operation of the vehicle.
“This may allow the occupants of the seats to face each other and to interact,” Ford’s patent states. “This may also allow all of the occupants to relax, interact with one another, and focus on vehicle amenities. Likewise, an occupant may be seated in a personal mobility device, e.g., a wheelchair, scooter, etc., that may be positioned in the vehicle in multiple directions. There remains an opportunity to design the vehicle to take into account the positioning of occupants facing in multiple directions.”
Featured image: Stock photo of an air bag control symbol. (Credit: deepblue4you/iStock)
View of a vehicle with air bags in an inflated position fixed to a floor (Credit: Ford U.S. Patent and Trademark Office patent application)
Close-up diagram of air bag surrounding a passenger (Credit: Ford U.S. Patent and Trademark Office patent application)