Ford will become the first automaker to offer seat-belt airbags on a mainstream car in Europe when the next-generation Mondeo goes on sale next year.
The two rear seat belts inflate in an accident to help reduce head, neck and chest injuries. The extra width of the inflated belt disperses the crash forces over an area five times greater than a normal belt, according to Ford.
After an impact, the belt inflates when compressed gas is forced out of a cylinder housed below the rear seat, through the buckle and into the belt. This takes less than 40 milliseconds, according to the company.
"It provides extra support to the head and neck and so is especially effective when worn by young children or elderly occupants who are more vulnerable in accidents," Joerg Doering, Ford of Europe seat-belts engineer, said in a statement.
The system has been developed with U.S. safety specialist Key Safety Systems (KSS) and was first offered in the Ford Explorer SUV in the United States from 2010.
Ford told Automotive News Europe it will be an option on the Mondeo. No decision about pricing has been made, but Ford didn't rule out bundling it with other safety systems.
Ford sells the option, together with the blind spot warning system, in the Explorer SUV for $595 (476 euros). According to Ford, the combined safety package is ordered by 40 percent of buyers.
The Mondeo goes on sale in Europe between May and June next year after its unveiling at the Paris auto show this September.
The midsize car is a rebadged version of the Ford Fusion revealed at the Detroit auto show in January this year. The Fusion won't be offered with the inflatable belt, according to Ford of Europe.
The first manufacturer to offer inflatable belts in Europe was Lexus with the LFA supercar in December 2010. That uses a front Airbelt system developed by Japanese supplier Takata.