By Jonathan Welsh
Ford Motor Co. is betting heavily on its coming Focus compact car, which goes on sale early next year. To raise the car’s profile, the company is using it to introduce some of its latest technology including airbags that adjust their internal pressure in a way that adapts to the passenger’s size and seat position.
The car’s front airbag on the driver’s side is designed to give better chest protection than before. Its tether system has a new design that pulls in the lower section of the bag to form a pocket that lessens the impact of frontal crashes on the driver’s chest and ribs.
The passenger airbag design includes a vent that reduces the bag’s inflation force to better match the occupant’s size. The system uses a tiny explosive to quickly force the vent open to relieve pressure. The result, Ford says, is improved head and neck protection in a frontal collision. The car’s side airbags use shoulder vents that stay open and reduce pressure for smaller occupants. Taller passengers whose shoulders are high enough to block the vents would typically require higher pressure.
Ford says it crash-tested the new Focus more than 12,000 times using computer simulations and actual crashes to check its safety systems. The company says the simulations are so realistic that it is able to cut the number of expensive tests performed on real vehicles.