Seatbelts are the primary restraint system used in the automotive industry. Higher safety demands and evolution of technology have led to the development of inflatable seatbelts. The inflatable seatbelts have a tubular airbag across its length that inflates to protect the occupants during a crash. The tubular airbag on the belts is filled with compressed gas through a cylinder placed below the seat, unlike the conventional airbag that inflates through rapid chemical reaction. The inflatable seatbelt contains a control unit that signals the inflator to inflate the bag during a collision.
Road accidents are the ninth-leading cause of all deaths globally, and the increase in concern for passenger safety has led to the demand for innovation in restraint systems. During a head-on collision, the forward momentum of the body concentrates the entire force on the seatbelts, and the harsh impact causes injury on the thorax. The inflatable seatbelt distributes the crash force evenly, thus minimizing the injury. The conventional front airbags offer little safety during side impacts. An inflatable airbag offers better safety even during side collisions, as it inflates around the passenger.
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The inflatable seatbelts deploy slowly and stay inflated for longer time, unlike the conventional airbag, thus offering its potential to benefit during longer crash events such as rollover. In developing countries, more number of people utilize rear seats. The rear seats offer seatbelts and side airbags, as the safety option, which are not sufficient for frontal collision. Thus the demand for inflatable system in the rear seating is estimated to rise. The inflatable seatbelts are less expensive than airbags and are projected to have a larger market than the conventional air bags, which are utilized in premium cars.
Inflatable seatbelts are difficult to integrate in child seats and the stringent laws of child restraints in North America act as a restraining factor for the technology.
The global automotive inflatable seatbelt market can be segmented based on the seating, vehicle, and geography Based on seating, the inflatable seatbelt market can be classified into front seats and rear seats. The rear seats segment is estimated to hold a higher share than the front seats segment, as rear seats can have only side airbags and they do not offer safety to rear seating passengers during a frontal collision. In terms of vehicle, the market can be classified into passenger vehicles and commercial vehicles. Rise in demand for safety features in passenger vehicles is likely to drive the inflatable seatbelt market. Based on geography, the market can be segmented into North America, Asia Pacific, Latin America, Europe, and Middle East & Africa. Air bags are mandatory in North America. The U.S and Canada have highly stringent safety norms for vehicles. Therefore, by availability of cheaper alternative the North America is estimated to hold a major share of the inflatable seatbelt market during the forecast period, followed by Europe.
Key players operating in the global inflatable seatbelt market include DIONO, LLC, Autoliv Inc., Ford Motor Company, & Takata Corporation.
Autoliv Inc. developed an inflatable belt three times its normal width for Mercedes. Ford Motor developed the system to particularly enhance the rear seat safety. The seat belts are designed to deploy within 40 milliseconds of a crash in order to protect the shoulder and torso. Takata has developed the inflatable seatbelt for front occupants. The company plans to design inflatable seatbelts for rear occupants also. Takata’s technology first featured in a two- seater Lexus.