Seat Belts: A Review of Technological Milestones, Regulatory Advancements, and Anticipated Future Trajectories
Decades after their introduction, seat belts remain the most important safety innovation in automotive history. Seat belt usage remains the single most effective way to minimize the risk of injury or death in severe crash events. Despite having matured, seat belts continue to evolve and improve and are expected to play an equally critical role in future passenger vehicles as increasing automation leads to changes in occupant compartment design and occupant-to-vehicle interaction. In this paper, an overview of major technical milestones in the development of seat belts is presented, ranging from the earliest lap belts to today’s systems that seamlessly synthesize and integrate information from a variety of sensors to prepare the restraints for an imminent crash. A brief overview of contemporary regulatory events is also provided, illustrating how regulatory actions have followed and occasionally driven the development and proliferation of various aspects of occupant restraints.