2012 Ford Focus airbags designed to deploy specifically to match body size

Article by Christian A., on September 16, 2010

Regarding the 2012 Ford Focus we didn’t tell you we like this car a lot, but after we saw the press release showing its new airbags, FoMoCo made us love it. Apparently, the 2012 Focus will have frontal and side airbags designed to deploy specifically in order to match an occupant’s body size.

The new intelligent airbag system will offer more protection for the head, neck, chest and ribs due to the fact that its computer system will sense the size of a passenger and in case of an accident will deploy the appropriate force and inflation.

According to Ford, its engineers have been working on this new airbag technology for two years because “one size fits all” doesn’t work for safety and airbag deployment. Furthermore, the side airbags on the 2012 Focus add chest protection for front-seat passengers by using specially designed shoulder vents, which sense how much a person’s shoulders block them to determine the size of the person.

For example, a taller person would benefit from a higher-pressure airbag while a shorter person would not block the vent and will get a reduced force from the airbag. What is more interesting is that this intelligent airbag system will come as standard on the 2012 Focus. Great job, Ford!

With an eye on vehicle safety, Ford has been investing in biomechanical research and has designed a unique driver-side airbag which protects the driver’s chest and rib area. Tests have proven that the device was particularly efficient in high impact collisions.

Frank Heitplatz, Ford Supervisor of Occupant Safety Integration explained that years of research had gone into designing the new safety airbag. He also explained that the design offers significant protection for the elderly driver who is at particular high risk for these types of injury.

The Focus’ body shell offers further protection with a high strength but it has a lightweight steel frame that covers 55% of the shell. 31 percent of the vehicle’s structure is also made with ultra – high strength boron steel. Using these low weight materials, Focus can keep occupants safe, satisfying global crash regulations, whilst permitting greater fuel economy.

Ford’s Technical Leader in Body Engineering, Shawn Morgans, felt that the superlight, super strength materials Ford had been using in the vehicles signified that “Focus is setting a new benchmark in the small car segment.” When driving the Focus, one cannot help but feel safe and secure whilst appreciating the lightweight feel of the vehicle.

Fifty years ago, Ford was a pioneer in safety when it made available the very first air bag in 1985 and by 1993 driver and front passenger airbags were standard in most of their vehicles.

This investment on safety continues to date as Ford has invented a range of crash protection systems such as knee bolsters to canopy airbags, all with the intention of keeping occupants safe and secure. It is easy to see why Ford has been given the most Top Safety Picks from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, over all of its competitors.

Press Release

All-New Ford Focus Launches Exclusive Airbag Technologies That Enhance Crash Protection

The all-new 2012 Ford Focus will launch exclusive airbag technologies that enhance protection for front seat occupants in the most common frontal and side crashes.

The suite of new innovations includes Ford's next-generation driver-front airbag with enhanced chest protection technology. The new airbag uses a reconfigured curve-shaped tether system that pulls in the lower section to create a "pocket" to help lessen the impact of the airbag on the driver's chest and ribs in frontal crashes.

Ford's innovative side airbags feature unique shoulder vents that stay open and reduce pressure for smaller occupants who typically benefit from reduced forces. Taller occupants whose shoulders block the vent could benefit from the higher pressures.

Focus also will be Ford's first car ever to feature front passenger airbags with adaptive venting technology that diverts some of the gas from the airbag inflators through vents outside of the airbags. The restraints control module – the control center of Ford's advanced safety systems – adjusts the level of venting based on seat position.

The new passenger airbag is designed to help enhance head and neck protection by better matching deployment force with occupant size. This innovative system uses a small pyrotechnic device to force open the vent and can provide less pressure in the airbag when it's sufficient to help protect the occupant.

The new airbag technologies debut as standard equipment on the all-new 2012 Ford Focus, which goes on sale early next year in North America. They will be rolled out to other Ford vehicles in the next few years.

Data drive new airbag design

Ford's new driver-side airbag was designed to enhance chest and rib protection based in part on Ford's biomechanical research. In particular, Ford found this type of enhanced chest protection technology would be especially helpful in more serious crashes.

"While seat belts and airbags provide proven protection for drivers of all ages, elderly drivers remain at higher risk of injury than younger drivers due to the nature of collision forces," said Frank Heitplatz, Ford supervisor of occupant safety integration. "Decades of biomechanical research at Ford continue to spur refinement of the safety technologies in our vehicles to further reduce the risks of severe injuries."

Focus's strength on safety

In addition to the new airbags, the new Focus's vehicle structure provides enhanced crash protection as well as improved vehicle dynamics.

High-strength steels comprise 55 percent of the Focus's body shell, and ultra-high-strength and boron steels make up more than 31 percent of its skeletal structure. These advanced materials help the structure meet crash regulations across world markets, while minimizing the vehicle's weight to help maximize fuel economy.

"High-strength steels were key to delivering the lighter weight and higher strength we needed for structural efficiency," said Shawn Morgans, Ford technical leader in body engineering. "We believe the materials used on the new Focus are setting a new benchmark in the small car segment."

Ford was the first automaker to begin airbag research five decades ago. It fielded an airbag test fleet in 1971, offered a driver-side airbag in 1985 and standardized driver and front passenger airbags in most vehicles by 1993. In recent years, Ford has introduced a variety of crash protection systems – ranging from canopy airbags to knee bolsters – designed to improve occupant protection. Ford has the most Top Safety Picks from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety of any automaker.

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