Ferrari has filed a patent application for a four-point seat belt for road cars, bringing a piece of safety equipment normally seen only in track cars to the street.
Safety regulations in most major global car markets mandate three-point seat belts, so named because the belts are attached at either side of the occupant’s lap and over one shoulder. Four-point belts add another belt that goes over the other shoulder.
These types of belts are generally not approved for street use and restricted to track cars. Ferrari’s patent application, which was published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on July 20, 2023, after being filed the previous January, specifically mentions use in a “road vehicle.”
Accompanying drawings show a design similar to current four-point seat belts, with two over-the-shoulder belts and a bisected lap belt connected by a quick-release mechanism at the center. In the application, Ferrari explains that this will help keep the driver steady in the correct driving position, which becomes more difficult in high-g cornering.
Ferrari claims its design also addresses a major drawback of four-point seat belts in road-car use. While the belts firmly secure the occupant’s torso, limiting forward movement in a crash, the head and neck remain unanchored. That means greater force is transferred to them, increasing the potential for injury or death. In track cars, drivers can protect against this by wearing a HANS device, but that wouldn’t be practical for road use.
Ferrari’s solution is a “damping device” that, when a given amount of force is imparted on the belts, allows a specific amount of forward movement of the occupant’s chest, which Ferrari claims limits the acceleration of the head. For this design to reach production, though, Ferrari will likely have to convince regulators that this will be enough to prevent serious injuries. It may also have to convince customers of the benefits of this more cumbersome form of seat belt.
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