DETROIT – Johnson Controls Inc. uses the North American International Auto Show here to unveil a pair of seat-based safety features designed to reduce lower extremity and whiplash-induced injuries resulting from front- and rear-end collisions.

Whiplash injuries resulting from low-speed, rear-end collisions are the most common among all insurance claims compiled by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, says Keith Wandell, executive vice president and president-Automotive Group for JCI, a leading provider of interior components and systems based in Milwaukee, WI.

To combat this issue, JCI introduces its active head restraint system, which deploys the front section of the headrest forward in the event of a crash in an effort to keep the occupant's head aligned with the torso and reduce the stress placed on the neck.

Depending on the application, the system uses pyrotechnic, electromechanical or inertia-based actuators and will be available by the end of the decade.

JCI active head restraint reduces whiplash injuries.

The first application of the technology will use an electromechanical actuator and will be featured on an '07 model European vehicle.

However, Scott Donegan, JCI chief of product planning, says the majority of the systems destined for the '08 model year and beyond will rely on pyrotechnic actuators similar to those used in active seatbelt pretensioners.

He adds that North America-based auto makers will begin to incorporate the technology into their vehicles in '08 models.

However, these applications will utilize a simpler inertia-based actuator, which senses the change in pressure of the occupant's back against the seatback during a rear-end collision, in an effort to keep additional electronic systems to a minimum.

JCI also unveils its Anti-Submarining Seat (ASS) system in an effort to address injuries to an occupant's lower extremities in the event of a frontal collision.

Submarining occurs during a crash when a seatbelt is loose enough to allow the occupant to slide underneath it and hit the dash and instrument panel, resulting in injuries to the legs, knees and pelvis.

During a front-end collision, a bar in the bottom of the seat cushion reacts to a pyrotechnic actuator and raises in the front of the seat, reducing the forward movement of an occupant's pelvis by more than 30%, Wandell says.

The system was designed in conjunction with the active head restraint system at JCI's European technical center in Burscheid, Germany, and will appear in vehicles in the '09 model year, Donegan says.

JCI also unveils a new seating concept aimed at improving and simplifying the accessibility of third-row seating in minivans, SUVs and cross/utility vehicles.

As third-row seating proliferates into a greater number of vehicles, passenger accessibility to the back row is becoming more of a focus point for marketers and a greater concern for consumers.

EZaxis will appear on '09 vehicles.

JCI's new seating concept, called EZaxis, addresses this need with a patent-pending fold and swivel design that greatly improves ingress/egress for vehicles fitted with a third row of seats, Wandell says.

Once integrated into either side of a second row of seats, EZaxis allows an outboard seat to fold up vertically and swivel toward the center of the vehicle with the pull of a handle.

In addition to improving accessibility, the seat system also improves vehicle storage by integrating several pouches for small items and a lockable storage bin for valuables.

EZaxis' folding design also opens up enough room for tall items to be secured on the floor of the second row.

Wandell says the system is applicable to nearly any vehicle with third-row seating and is expected to be available for fitment in '09 model vehicles.

msutton@primediabusiness.com