THE PRESENT INVENTION relates to a safety device, and more
paiticularly relates to a safety device for use in a motor vehicle such as a motor
It has been proposed previously to provide a safety device in the
form of an inflatable element mounted on part of a safety-belt to be worn by an
of a vehicle.
WO97/06983 shows an inflatable element incorporated into the lap strap
of a three-point safety-belt, the inflatable element being in the form of a braided
tube, the length of which decreases as the diameter increases on inflation thereof.
The inflated tube serves to pretension the safety-belt, but the inflated tube restricts
forward motion of an occupant of the seat, and serves to distribute crash loads
over a relatively large pelvic area.
DE-19724191 which shows a vehicle safety device according to the preamble
of claim 1 also shows an arrangement in which an air-bag is provided which, in the
uninflated state, is located to one side of a seat of the occupant. The air-bag
is provided with a plurality of rings which slide along a guide forming part of
the safety-belt system. On inflation of the air-bag, the rings extend along the
guide and thus the air-bag becomes located generally in front of the occupant of
the seat. Should, however, a ring "jam" or be unable to move along the guide, the
inflated air-bag may be in an inappropriate position.
DE-19725558A shows a further arrangement in which a lap strap is formed
to be inflatable. The inflated lap strap is located in front of the occupant of
A problem with an inflatable element mounted on a lap strap, as shown
in WO97/06983 and DE-19725558A is that when the lap strap is manufactured, the size
of the person to utilise the lap strap is not known. The lap strap may be used by
a child or very small adult, and then the length of the lap strap actually used
will only be slightly greater than the length of the lap strap than would extend
from the conventional anchorage which anchors one end of the lap strap to the vehicle,
and the buckle that receives a tongue provided on the lap strap. In such a case,
it would be preferable for the inflatable part of the lap strap to be located directly
in front of the child or young adult when the strap is in position. However, if
the inflatable element is mounted on the lap strap in a position that is suitable
for such a child or young adult, if the lap strap is utilised by a large adult,
or even an obese adult, the inflatable part of the lap strap will then no longer
be located in front of the person using the lap strap, but instead will be located
to one side.
The present invention seeks to provide an improved safety arrangement.
According to this invention there is provided a safety device for
a vehicle seat, the safety device incorporating at least a lap strap, one end of
the lap strap being provided with means adapted to be fixed to an anchoring point
provided on one side of the seat, the other end of the lap strap being provided
with means adapted to be releasable engaged with a buckle fixed to an anchoring
point on the other side of the seat, the length of the lap strap being adjustable
at the buckle side, there being a folded inflatable air-bag located on part of the
lap strap, the air-bag being secured to the lap strap along that part of the lap
strap on which the folded bag is located, the air-bag being configured such that,
on inflation, part of the inflated bag will extend towards the said other end of
the lap strap beyond the location of the bag when folded, the length and location
of the folded air-bag being such that the folded air-bag will not engage the means
to be releasably connected to the buckle, even when the lap strap is buckled and
extends substantially tightly across the seat without an occupant in the seat, wherein
the part of the lap strap carrying the air-bag, and also the part of the lap strap
extending between the part of the lap strap carrying the air-bag and the said one
end of the lap strap is relatively torsion-stiff, the part of the lap strap extending
from the folded bag to the means to be releasably engaged by the buckle being torsion-weak.
The safety belt may comprise solely the lap strap or may comprise
a seat-belt of the so-called three-point-linkage variety, that is to say a seat-belt
which incorporates the lap strap, and incorporates a further strap part which extends
from the means adapted to be releasably connected to the buckle to a further point
located above a shoulder of an occupant of the seat.
Advantageously, the part of the lap strap that is torsion-stiff is
provided with a reinforcing coating of a plastics material.
Conveniently, the part of the lap strap that is torsion-stiff lies
adjacent a gas duct lead to the air-bag.
Preferably the distance between the part of the folded bag closest
to the means to be releasably connected to the buckle, and the means to be releasably
connected to the buckle, is at least one-quarter of the total length of the lap
strap when the lap strap is buckled and extends substantially tightly across the
seat without an occupant in the seat.
Advantageously the folded air-bag comprises an initially folded air-bag
subjected to a final fold which folds part of the air-bag not fixed to the lap strap
and extending towards the means adapted to be releasably connected to the buckle
over the rest of the air-bag.
Conveniently the air-bag is constituted by two adjacent layers of
fabric joined about their periphery, the initial folding process including the step
of separating the two layers of fabric in a first region adjacent the lap strap
and tucking part of the air-bag located further away from the lap strap, between
the two separated layers.
Preferably the part of the air-bag furthest from the lap strap is
tucked between the fabric layers of an intermediate region of the air-bag located
between the first region and the said part of the air-bag.
Conveniently the initially folded bag is zig-zag folded so that the
folded bag has a width substantially equal to the width of the lap strap.
Advantageously the folded air-bag has a length, measured along the
lap strap, which is substantially equal to half of the length, measured in the direction
of the lap strap of the unfolded, but inflated air-bag.
Conveniently the folded bag is covered by a flexible gaiter fixed
to the lap strap.
Preferably the gaiter has one end thereof secured to the strap, the
gaiter being in a position in which it embraces the lap strap and the folded air-bag.
Advantageously the size of the form of the air-bag is such that the
air-bag, when inflated, will engage a rigid structure in front of the occupant of
the seat within the vehicle.
Preferably the pressure inside the bag, when inflated, before the
bag is hit by the occupant of the seat, is between 0.02 and 0.05 bar.
Conveniently the pressure is 0.03 bar.
In order that the invention may be more readily understood, and so
that further features thereof may be appreciated, the invention will now be described,
by way of example, with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:
- FIGURE 1 is a diagrammatic perspective view of a lap strap forming one embodiment
of the invention,
- FIGURE 2 is a diagrammatic view illustrating a three-point safety-belt incorporating
an embodiment of the invention prior to use,
- FIGURE 3 is a view generally corresponding to Figure 2 showing the three-point
belt in use with a 95 percentile dummy,
- FIGURE 4 is a plan view of part of the safety device of an embodiment of the
invention at an early stage in the manufacture thereof.
- FIGURE 5 is a view corresponding to Figure 4 during a subsequent stage of manufacture,
- FIGURE 6 is a sectional view taken on the line VI-VI of Figure 6,
- FIGURE 7 is a view corresponding to Figure 6 during the subsequent stage of
- FIGURE 8 is a sectional view taken on the line VIII-VIII of Figure 7,
- FIGURE 9 is a view corresponding to Figure 7 at a later stage of manufacture,
- FIGURE 10 is a sectional view taken on the line X-X of Figure 11,
- FIGURE 11 is a view corresponding to Figure 9 showing a subsequent stage,
- FIGURE 12 is a subsequent view taken on the line XII-XII of Figure 11,
- FIGURE 13 is a view corresponding to Figure 11 showing a subsequent stage,
- FIGURE 14 is a sectional view taken on the line XIV-XIV of Figure 13,
- FIGURE 15 is a view corresponding to Figure 14 showing a subsequent stage,
- FIGURE 16 is a sectional view taken on the line XIV-XIV of Figure 13,
- FIGURE 17 is a view corresponding to Figure 13 showing a subsequent stage,
- FIGURE 18 is a view corresponding to part of Figure 3 illustrating the safety
device ready for use,
- FIGURE 19 is a perspective view showing the safety device in use,
- FIGURE 20 is a top plan view of the safety device in use as shown in Figure
18 and 19,
- FIGURE 21 is a view corresponding to Figure 20 showing the device with an alternative
size of dummy, and
- FIGURE 22 is a top plan view corresponding to Figure 21 showing the device in
sue when the vehicle is undergoing substantial deceleration.
Referring initially to Figure 1 of the accompanying drawings, one
embodiment of the present invention comprises a safety device intended to provide
protection for the occupant of a seat 1 in a motor vehicle. The safety device of
this embodiment comprises a simple lap belt 2, one end of which is connected to
an anchoring point 3 adjacent one end of the seat, and the other end of which is
provided with an adjustable tongue 4 adapted to be received within a buckle 5 provided
with anchoring means 6 to anchor the buckle 5 to the vehicle. Provided on the lap
belt 2 is a package 7 which contains an inflatable element or air-bag. The air-bag
7 is connected by means of a gas duct (not shown) to an inflator or gas generator.
The gas generator is adapted to be activated in response to a signal from a sensor
adapted to sense a predetermined deceleration of the vehicle, or an impact of the
vehicle. The nature of the air-bag will be described hereinafter.
Figure 2 illustrates an alternative embodiment of the invention. In
this embodiment of the invention a three-point safety-belt is provided. Figure 2
illustrates a rear seat 10 in a motor vehicle. A safety-belt 11 is provided, one
end of which is anchored by an anchoring plate 12 to part of the vehicle adjacent
the vehicle seat. The other end of the safety-belt 11 is connected to a retractor
mechanism 13 mounted in position adjacent the back of the seat 10. A cover 14 is
provided to conceal the retractor mechanism, the cover 14 having an aperture 15
to guide part of the safety-belt 11 as it freely slides.
A tongue 16 is mounted on the safety-belt 11 adapted to be received
within a buckle 17. The buckle 17 is provided with mounting means 18 to enable the
buckle to be mounted in position securely adjacent the side of the seat opposite
to the anchoring plate 12.
Part of the safety-belt 11 adjacent the anchoring plate 12 is provided
with a package 19 which contains an inflatable air-bag, generally as described above
with reference to Figure 1.
Figure 3 illustrates the safety-belt 11 of Figure 2 when in use. It
can be seen that the part of the safety-belt 11 carrying the package 19 constitutes
a lap strap 20 which extends from the anchorage 12 to the buckle 17. The rest of
the safety-belt 11 constitutes a diagonal strap which extends from the buckle 17
to the aperture 15 provided in the cover 14.
It is to be appreciated that in the embodiment of Figure 1 and in
the embodiment of Figures 2 to 3, a lap strap is provided which carries a package
which contains an inflatable air-bag.
Figure 4 illustrates a terminal part of a safety-belt 21. The safety-belt
21 may be used as the safety-belt 2 of the embodiment of Figure 1 or as the safety-belt
11 of the embodiment of Figures 2 and 3. The safety-belt 21 is provided, at the
free end thereof, with a mounting plate 22. The mounting plate 22 is provided with
an aperture 23 to receive a bolt or the like to enable the mounting plate 22 to
be firmly secured to an anchoring point provided in a motor vehicle. Typically the
anchoring point will be adjacent one side of a vehicle seat. The safety-belt 1 that
is connected to the anchoring plate is of a conventional form, but a first terminal
region 24 of the belt, and the next adjacent region 25, are provided with a reinforcement,
in the form of a coating of a plastics material, which serves to make that part
of the safety-belt relatively torsion-stiff. Thus, the plastics material coating
is itself relatively rigid, thus minimising any risk that the terminal portion 24,
or the next adjacent portion 25 of the safety-belt will be able to "twist". Thus
the plastics coating will keep this part of the safety-belt substantially "flat".
An inflatable element, in the form of an air-bag 26, is provided,
an edge portion 27 of which is secured to the region 25 of the safety-belt adjacent
the terminal region 24. Thus the terminal region 24 is not provided with any additional
items, and the next adjacent region 25 carries the inflatable element 26. The region
27 of the inflatable element that is secured to the region 25 of the strap 21 constitutes
only part of the lower edge of the inflatable element. Thus, the lower edge of the
inflatable element extends, generally in alignment with the safety-belt 21, past
the end of the stitching 27 which is remote from the anchoring plate 22. The inflatable
element extends generally to one side of the safety-belt 21, with the inflatable
element being substantially flat.
The inflatable element 26 is constituted by two super-imposed layers
of fabric inter-connected by a peripheral seam 28. A gas duct 29 is provided which
extends into the inflatable element 26. The gas duct 29 extends generally parallel
with the safety-belt 21. The gas duct 29 is intended to be connected to a gas generator
or inflator mounted on the vehicle at a point near the anchoring point on which
the anchor plate 22 is mounted. The gas duct, being rigid, will add to the torsional
stiffness of the belt 21 between the inflatable element 26 and the anchor plate
Shown in Figure 4, for purposes of explanation, are three parallel
chain lines 30, 31 and 32, which indicate where the inflatable element 26 will be
folded during subsequent stages of the manufacture of the safety device, these parallel
fold lines extending generally parallel with the axis of the safety-belt 21. A further
chain line 33 indicates the line of a further subsequent fold, this chain only extending
perpendicularly to the parallel fold lines 30, 31 and 32.
In an initial process stage, the two layers of fabric forming the
inflatable element 26 are separated in a lower region thereof, and an intermediate
part of the inflatable element is tucked downwardly into the lower-most region of
the inflatable element. Thus, the air-bag is folded so that the part of the bag
adjacent the fold-line 31 is moved downwardly, between the layers of fabric, until
a situation is reached where the front and rear layers of fabric are each folded
in a re-entrant fashion at the fold-line 30, and are again folded back on themselves
at the fold-line 31. Thus each layer of fabric is individually zig-zag folded. The
portion of the inflatable element 26 identified by the fold-line 32 of Figure 4
is thus brought into alignment with the fold-line 30. This is the situation shown
in Figures 5 and 6 of the accompanying drawings.
Subsequently the part of the inflatable element above the fold-line
32 of Figure 4 is itself tucked downwardly between the layers of fabric that extend
between the fold-lines 31 and 32. This is the situation shown in Figures 7 and 8
of the accompanying drawings.
In a subsequent folding step, the entire inflatable element is folded
so that the gas duct 29 overlies the safety-belt. This is the position shown in
Figures 9 and 10. The inflatable element is now subjected as a complete entity,
to zig-zag folding, with the spacing between adjacent folds being substantially
equal to the width of the safety-belt 21. Thus, part of the inflatable element is
folded to overlie the safety-belt and to extend again on the side of the safety-belt
initially occupied by the inflatable element as shown in Figure 4. This is the position
shown in Figure 11. Subsequently again part of the air-bag is folded back in the
opposite direction, and the process is repeated until the air-bag is folded, with
zig-zag folds, so that the entire air-bag overlies the safety-belt, as shown in
Figures 13 and 14. As a final folding step, the part of the air-bag shown to the
left of the fold-line 33 of Figure 4, that is to say the part of the air-bag beyond
the end of the line of stitching 27 remote from the mounting plate 22, is folded
back to overlie the rest of the folded air-bag, so that the entire folded bag overlies
that part of the air-bag which is stitched, by stitching 27, to the safety-belt
21. This is the position shown in Figures 15 and 16.
A gaiter 36, which has an open end thereof secured to the safety-belt
21 at a point just beyond the end of the stitching 27 which secures the inflatable
element to the safety-belt, and which is initially folded back to extend away from
the inflatable element, is then drawn over the folded inflatable element to constitute
a package containing the inflatable element. The gaiter 36 is made of a material
adapted to break or rupture when subjected to a predetermined pressure.
As can be seen from Figure 17, the gaiter 36 covers the terminal region
24 and the next adjacent region 25 of the safety-belt 21 which are provided with
the plastics material coating, so as to be relatively torsion-stiff. The gas duct
29 is located adjacent the connecting plate 22. The gas duct may be of a relatively
stiff material, and the gas duct may be connected to a gas generator mounted in
position close to the anchoring point adapted to cooperate with the mounting plate
22. Thus the presence of the rigid gas duct may serve to enhance the torsion-stiffness
of the terminal region 24 of the safety-belt 21.
The part of the safety-belt 21 not covered by the gaiter 36 is not
provided with any coating or the like to make that part of the safety-belt torsion-stiff,
and thus this part of the safety-belt may be considered to be torsion-weak.
Figure 18 illustrates a safety device 40 comprising a safety-belt
41 which comprises a three-point belt having a lap strap 42, which carries a package
43 containing an inflatable element of the type discussed above, and also a diagonal
The lap strap extends between an anchorage 45 provided at one side
of the seat, and a tongue 46 which co-operates with a buckle 47 which is connected
to an anchoring point 48 provided at the other side of the seat. Typically the length
of the lap strap 42 is between 500 and 700 millimetres, depending upon the size
of the occupant of the seat. Of course, in extreme cases, the length of the lap
strap may be less than 500 millimetres or more than 700 millimetres.
As shown in Figure 8 part of the package 43 containing the air-bag
extends, by a distance "X" beyond a notional centre-line 49 of the occupant of the
seat from the anchoring point 45. The distance X is 90 millimetres for a so-called
95 percentile dummy. A 95 percentile dummy is a dummy which is of such a size that
95% of the male population of the U.S.A. are of a smaller size. Thus the 95 percentile
dummy corresponds to a relatively large man, with only a relatively small part of
the population being larger. The distance X will typically be 140 millimetres for
a 50th per cent isle dummy. A 50 percentile dummy has such a size that only 50 percentile
of the male population of the U.S.A. are smaller.
The distance X will be 180 millimetres for a 5 percentile dummy. A
5 percentile dummy is such that only 5% of the male population of the U.S.A. are
It is to be appreciated, therefore, that the package 43 containing
the inflatable element will extend beyond the mid point of an occupant of the seat
in almost all cases, and also it is to be appreciated that the package does not
extend as far as the tongue 46 connected to the buckle 47. Indeed, it is to be understood
that the package 43 will not extend to the tongue 46 even if the safety-belt is
secured and tightened with no occupant present in the seat. Thus the distance at
the end of the package 43 which is remote from the anchoring point 45 is less than
the distance, as followed by the lap strap 42, from the anchoring point 41 to the
tongue 46 when the seat is not occupied and the safety-belt is in position and tightened.
Turning now to Figures 19 and 20, it is to be appreciated that in
the event that the sensor associated with the gas generator senses a deceleration
in excess of a predetermined threshold or an impact, the gas generator is activated
and gas will flow, through the gas duct, into the inflatable element within the
package 43. The inflatable element will inflate to become an inflated cushion 50
located in front of the occupant of the seat. The inflated element, when viewed
from above, is of substantially "drop"-shape.
The "drop"-shape inflated element has a relatively narrow portion
located adjacent the end of the belt that is anchored to the motor vehicle, and
has a relatively large bulbous portion which is spaced away from the end of the
belt anchored to the vehicle and positioned to be located in front of the occupant
of the seat. The size of the "drop"-shaped portion of the inflated element is such
that as the occupant of the seat tends to bend forwardly, about the hips, in an
accident situation, the head and torso of the occupant will impact with the bag.
Figure 20 shows that with a 95 percentile dummy, in an impact situation
the main torso of the dummy is substantially aligned with the major area of the
"drop"-shape inflated element.
The air-bag, when inflated, extends forwardly from the lap strap to
occupy the space above the knees and in front of the thorax of the occupant of the
seat. The air-bag has two critical dimensions. The first dimension is the distance
from the centre point on the lap strap measured forwardly in a direction parallel
with the longitudinal axis of the vehicle to the forward-most part of the air-bag.
The second dimension that is of importance is the greatest substantially vertical
thickness of the inflated air-bag, that is to say the distance between the lower-most
fabric and the upper-most layer of fabric measured in a vertical line.
It is important that the first dimension, for each size of occupant
of the seat, is such that as the torso and head of the occupant move forwardly in
an accident situation, the head and torso of the occupant impact with the bag, with
no part of the head or torso "overhanging" the bag. Also, it is preferred that the
second dimension should also be related to the size of the occupant. If the occupant
is large, and thus heavy, the occupant should impact with a "thicker" air-bag as
compared with a smaller occupant. If a small occupant impacts with a very "thick"
air-bag, the desired degree of protection may not be provided.
Thus the air-bag 50, as shown in Figures 19 and 20, is configured
so that the first dimension and the second dimension of the air-bag when it is in
use, depend upon the size of the person using the air-bag.
In the situation shown in Figure 20, where the seat-belt is utilised
with a 95 percentile dummy, a substantial length of the seat-belt constitutes the
lap strap. Thus the mid point of the lap strap is a substantial distance from the
fixed end of the lap strap. The first dimension of the bag in front of this mid
point of the seat-belt is substantial, to accommodate the very large torso-and-head
combination of the dummy when thrown forwardly. Also the part of the air-bag in
front of the dummy has a substantial thickness, so as to accommodate the substantial
weight of the torso and head of the dummy in an accident situation.
Figure 21 is a figure corresponding to Figure 20 showing a 50 percentile
dummy in a moderate crash. It can be seen that in this arrangement the dummy impacts
the main inflated area of the air-bag, but the main point of impact between the
dummy and the air-bag is that part of the air-bag which is closest to the end of
the lap strap that is secured to the anchoring point on the motor vehicle. Because,
in the situation shown in Figure 21, the dummy utilised is smaller than the dummy
of Figure 20, the length of lap strap in use is less. Thus the mid point of the
lap strap, in the situation shown in Figure 21, is located closer to the fixed end
of the lap strap. Consequently, as can be seen, the first dimension of the air-bag
in the situation shown in Figure 1 is less than the first dimension of the air-bag
in the situation shown in Figure 20 as discussed above. However, the dimension is
sufficiently large to accommodate the torso and head of the dummy utilising the
safety device. In the arrangement shown in Figure 21, the second dimension, or thickness
of the inflated air-bag in front of the dummy is less than the thickness of the
part of the inflated air-bag in front of the dummy in the situation shown in Figure
20. This is appropriate, since the dummy of Figure 21 will have a lower weight than
the dummy of Figure 20.
As shown in Figure 22, if a 50 percentile dummy is involved in a very
severe crash, in which there is substantial deceleration of the vehicle, the dummy
may move forwardly relative to the seat, thus stretching the lap strap, and in this
situation the dummy impacts the central region of the inflated part of the inflatable
It is to be observed that there is a part of the safety-belt forming
the lap strap which extends from the region 25 which carries the inflatable element
to the tongue or to the anchorage which retains that part of the lap strap. This
part of the lap strap is not reinforced in any way and is thus torsionally weak
and is able to twist. If part of the lap strap is twisted in any way, the twist
will always be located on this torsion-weak part of the lap strap. This will help
ensure that the folded bag, retained by the torsionally stiff regions 24 and 25,
will always be located on the side of the belt facing away from the occupant. The
gas duct 29 will serve to increase the torsional stiffness of the region of the
lap strap which carries the package containing the air-bag. The gas duct is provided
at the end of the package closest to the anchoring plate 22, so that the gas duct
may be connected to a gas generator which is mounted on the motor vehicle adjacent
the anchorage to which the anchor plate 22 is connected.
It is preferred that the distance between the buckle and the end of
the package containing the air-bag which is closest to the buckle, should be at
least one-quarter of the total length of the lap strap between the buckle and the
anchorage when the belt is buckled and stretched without there being an occupant
on the seat. This helps to ensure that a reasonable number of twisting turns can
be accommodated before the torsion-stiff part of the lap strap starts to twist.
It is preferred that the air-bag, as described above, should be inflated,
before being hit by the occupant, to a pressure of between 0.02 and 0.05 bar, the
most preferred pressure being 0.03 bar. A typical front air-bag in a motor vehicle,
for example an air-bag mounted in the dashboard or in the steering-wheel, typically
requires a pressure of 0.3 bar. This can make it very aggressive, especially when
an occupant of the vehicle is in an out-of-position situation, thus being located
very close to the air-bag when it begins to inflate. The described arrangement may
be designed so that the air-bag is located in a desired position relative to the
occupant, thus minimising the risk of injury to the occupant if the occupant is
in an out-of-position situation. A much lower pressure can be used which makes the
air-bag of the embodiments described above much less aggressive than air-bags typically
found in motor vehicles. It is possible that in preferred embodiments of the invention,
the size and form of the air-bag is such that the air-bag, when inflated, engages
part of the rigid structure of the vehicle located in front of the occupant such
as, as shown in Figure 9, the back of the seat in front of the occupant being protected
by the air-bag 50. In the case of a front seat occupant, the air-bag may be designed
to engage the dashboard of the vehicle. The bag will thus effectively be supported
from the front as well as being retained on the lap strap by the stitching described
In the present specification "comprise" means "includes or consists
of" and "comprising" means "including or consisting of'.