Ford’s New Inflatable Safety Belt.
• Ford Motor Company’s Passive Safety Research team relies on the expertise of Technical Leader Dr. Srini Sundararajan, who led the development of Ford’s new inflatable safety belt.
• Sundararajan also has guided Ford’s development of deployable door trim systems designed to improve side-impact protection, and led innovative biomechanics research on the human cervical spine movement during rear-end collisions.
• In his free time, Sundararajan spends time with his wife and 7-year-old son, builds furniture in his woodshop, and on clear nights stargazes through a telescope.
Automotive safety innovations don’t happen overnight. Just ask Dr. Srini Sundararajan, Ford Motor Company’s technical leader on the development of its new inflatable seat belt system – a project that has been in the works for approximately 10 years.
“Combining the functionality of a safety belt and some of the benefits of an air bag into one occupant protection system was easier said than done,” Sundararajan said. “There were many challenges along the way – such as determining the need to inflate through a special buckle and the need to use a special retracting system that could handle a thicker belt. There was much trial and error before we hit upon the right solutions.”
The 21-year Ford veteran has applied his expertise of vehicle occupant biomechanics and advanced restraint development to a number of other safety projects at Ford as well. He led the development and evaluation of the industry’s first comprehensive automatic collision notification system by completing a study of 500 police vehicles in Texas to establish its operational parameters in real-world crash scenerios.
Sundararajan also guided Ford’s development of deployable door trim systems designed to improve side-impact protection. The systems exceeded stringent federal expectations for crash protection, and earned Sundararajan a Henry Ford Technology Award for invention and implementation.
An American of Indian heritage, Sundararajan also led innovative biomechanics research on the human cervical spine movement during rear end collisions, which influenced seatback and head restraint designs at Ford. He also led research and development of automatic adjustable head restraints to enhance occupant protection in low-speed rear-end impacts, and a leading orthopedic manufacturer used his research methodology to obtain FDA approval for cervical implants.
In addition to helping protect vehicle occupants, Sundararajan has helped protect pedestrians with his work as well. He led development of an active hood system for pedestrian head protection, and directed Ford’s North American vehicle assessment of proposed global regulations for pedestrian safety.
Sundararajan’s interest in safety began in the aerospace industry where he worked on structural design for safety of helicopter pilots and passengers. He made the transition to automotive, and moved to Michigan from Texas after earning his master’s degree at the University of Texas in Arlington.
“A friend of mine was working in Ford and told me the company was looking for people with crash safety expertise, and I asked ‘does helicopter crash safety count?’ and he said sure,” Sundararajan said. “In both aerospace and automotive, my passion has always been safety.”
Personal Insights and Fun Facts.
• Srini has been married to his wife Usha for 12 years. They have one son, Nik, age 7.
• Srini earned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Texas and his doctoral degree in biomedical engineering at Wayne State University.
• Srini is the first person in his family to have sky-dived.
• Srini has walked barefoot on a bed of burning embers – several times.
• Srini is especially proud of coaching his son’s soccer team.
• Srini is a fan of the Detroit Tigers and AC Milan pro soccer team.
• Srini will never forget his trip to the Taj Mahal in India, because it is an engineering marvel.
• Srini remembers when he bought his son’s first car seat.
• Srini drives a Ford Taurus X.
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