Volvo celebrates 50 years of the seat-belt
We are currently cruising in a 2009 Volvo XC60, and it is a vehicle that packs in a whole new set of safety technologies that border on invasive. However, given Volvo’s past, that was to be expected. For the Swedish company is responsible for the invention of the 3-point seat-belt, and is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary.
It was only towards the end of the 1950s that the car safety belt evolved into its current design, thanks to Volvo engineer Nils Bohlin.
Before that, the 2-point lap belt was the most common solution, but there were also different variants of the 3-point safety belt. The problem was that they did not protect their users sufficiently, especially not at high speeds.
Nils Bohlin, a former aviation engineer who before moving to Volvo worked on the development of catapult seats, understood the forces generated in a collision.
The most important properties of Nils Bohlin’s design were that the system consisted of a lap belt and a diagonal body belt, that the belt straps were anchored at a low attachment point beside the seat, that the belt geometry formed a “V” shape with the point directed toward the floor, and that the belt stayed in position and did not move under load. The very same principles apply in modern seat-belts.
Volvo was thus the first car maker to equip its cars as standard with 3-point safety belts. The invention was patented with what is known as an open patent. That is to say anyone who wanted was granted free use of the design.