Title:
Restraint belt presenter with rising arm and offset rotary action
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A restraint belt presenter assembly includes a restraint belt engaging member that is selectively driven by a track drive mechanism to catch and pull a restraint belt from its unused position to a presentation position for grasping by a vehicle occupant. In one embodiment, the restraint belt engaging member includes a selectively upwardly moving arm having a finger assembly with an offset rotary action for moving the finger assembly into an actuating position. In a second embodiment, the restraint belt engaging member is connected to a hinge member that pivots the restraint belt engaging member into an actuating position.



Inventors:
Townsend, John A. (Bloomfield Hills, MI, US)
El-sayed, Mohamed (Bloomfield Hills, MI, US)
Campbell, John E. (Hazel Park, MI, US)
Delorean, Paul J. (Bloomfield Hills, MI, US)
Application Number:
09/876618
Publication Date:
11/15/2001
Filing Date:
06/07/2001
Assignee:
Joalto Design, Inc.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B60R22/03; (IPC1-7): B60R22/00; B60R22/48
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20090085337Rollover Protection DeviceApril, 2009Vlahovic et al.
20060131840Children's strollerJune, 2006Donay
20100084842Crash Pad for Automotive Interior and Apparatus for Manufacturing the SameApril, 2010Kong
20020005625Multi-purpose trailerJanuary, 2002Palmer
20060201734Fluid disturbance damping in fluid driven activation devicesSeptember, 2006Hartle
20060255551Multi-functional work platformNovember, 2006Hurt
20050082774Skate wheels incorporating transverse-mounted and self-powered illuminating devicesApril, 2005Chiu
20060186627Axle-supporting deviceAugust, 2006Koyagi et al.
20090033058HEATED CAB ENTRY STEPSFebruary, 2009Vandergriend et al.
20020094261Motor vehicle with loading rampJuly, 2002Fischer et al.
20040239056Wheel-set equipped with shoeDecember, 2004Cho et al.



Primary Examiner:
BOTTORFF, CHRISTOPHER
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
John A. Townsend (Southfield, MI, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A restraint belt presenter assembly for bringing a restraint belt forward comprising: a restraint belt engaging member having a selectively movable upper arm, a lower arm and a finger assembly mounted on said upper arm; a pivot member for rotationally pivoting said finger assembly toward an actuated position; and a track drive mechanism positioned adjacent a vehicle seat for selectively driving said restraint belt engaging member from a starting position to a presentation position.

2. The restraint belt presenter assembly of claim 1, wherein said lower arm further includes a slot that receives said upper arm.

3. The restraint belt presenter assembly of claim 2, wherein said lower arm further includes a screw member fixedly secured to a rotatable cog.

4. The restraint belt presenter assembly of claim 3, wherein a bottom portion of said upper arm is operatively connected to said screw member.

5. The restraint belt presenter assembly of claim 4, further including a toothed track member positioned alongside the vehicle seat, wherein said rotatable cog meshes with said toothed track member as said restraint belt moves from said starting position to said presentation position, thereby turning said screw member in a first predetermined direction so as to move upper arm upwardly.

6. The restraint belt presenter assembly of claim 1, wherein said finger assembly is contained in a cap housing positioned on a top portion of said selectively movable upper arm, said cap housing having a slot from which a selectively retractable presenting finger protrudes.

7. The restraint belt presenter assembly of claim 1, wherein said pivot member is rotatably mounted on a base member.

8. The restraint belt presenter assembly of claim 7, wherein said pivot member includes corresponding walls that cooperate to define a channel therebetween that receives a mounting member connected to an end portion of said presenting finger.

9. The restraint belt presenter assembly of claim 8, wherein said mounting member is pivotally connected to said pivot member.

10. The restraint belt presenter assembly of claim 8, wherein said mounting member further includes a positioning lug that cooperates with a recess formed in said base member.

11. The restraint belt presenter assembly of claim 10, further including a first spring for biasing said positioning lug in a first predetermined position.

12. The restraint belt presenter assembly of claim 11, further including a second spring for biasing said pivot member in a second predetermined position.

13. The restraint belt presenter assembly of claim 1, wherein said drive mechanism includes a carriage moved along a track by a belt driven by a motor.

14. A restraint belt presenter assembly for bringing a restraint belt forward comprising: a restraint belt engaging member having a selectively movable upper arm that has a bottom portion connected to a screw member positioned in a lower arm and a finger assembly mounted on said upper arm; a rotatable cog fixedly secured to said screw member; a pivot member for rotationally pivoting said finger assembly toward an actuated position; a track drive mechanism positioned adjacent a vehicle seat for selectively driving said restraint belt engaging member from a starting position to a presentation position; and a toothed track member positioned alongside the vehicle seat, wherein said rotatable cog meshes with said toothed track member as said restraint belt moves from said starting position to said presentation position, thereby turning said screw member in a first predetermined direction so as to move upper arm upwardly.

15. The restraint belt presenter assembly of claim 14, wherein said finger assembly is contained in a cap housing positioned on a top portion of said selectively movable upper arm, said cap housing having a slot from which a selectively retractable presenting finger protrudes.

16. The restraint belt presenter assembly of claim 15, wherein said pivot member includes corresponding walls that cooperate to define a channel therebetween that receives a mounting member pivotally connected to an end portion of said presenting finger, wherein said mounting member further includes a positioning lug that cooperates with a recess formed in said base member, wherein said a first spring operates to bias said positioning lug in a first predetermined position and a second spring operates to bias said pivot member in a second predetermined position.

17. A restraint belt presenter assembly for bringing a restraint belt forward comprising: a selectively movable carriage carrying a restraint belt engaging member; a mounting member positioned on said carriage; a hinge member connected to said mounting member for pivotal movement about said mounting member; and a track drive mechanism positioned adjacent a vehicle seat for selectively driving said carriage carrying said restraint belt engaging member from a starting position to a presentation position.

18. The restraint belt presenting member of claim 17, wherein said hinge member includes a first pair of ears that cooperate to form a channel therebetween, said mounting member being positioned in said channel and said hinge being secured to said mounting member for pivotal movement about said mounting member.

19. The restraint belt presenting member of claim 18, wherein said hinge member includes a second pair of ears that cooperate to form a second channel therebetween, said second channel receiving said restraint belt engaging member therein, wherein said restraint belt engaging member is mounted to said hinge member for pivotal movement.

20. The restraint belt presenting member of claim 19, wherein said second channel further includes a stop member positioned between said second pair of ears to limit the pivotal movement of said restraint belt engaging member.

21. The restraint belt presenting member of claim 17, further including a projecting feature for engaging said restraint belt engaging member and assisting in moving said restraint belt engaging member to the actuated position.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

[0001] The present application is a Continuation-in-Part of U.S. application Ser. No. 09/362,271, filed Jul. 28, 2000 by the same inventors, entitled RESTRAINT BELT PRESENTER HAVING OFFSET ROTARY ACTION. Applicant incorporates said Application herein by reference and hereby claims the priority date of this earlier filed Application pursuant to 35 U.S.C. §120.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0002] The present invention relates to a restraint belt presenter for vehicles, and more particularly to a presenter system that presents the restraint belt to a vehicle occupant.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] The use of restraint belts in vehicles is known for providing vehicle occupants with protection in the event of a collision or accident. Conventional restraint belts include a combination of a lap belt portion and shoulder belt portion formed from a continuous belt. In such an arrangement, one end of the belt is anchored to a structural floor member of the vehicle behind a seat on its outboard side. The other end is secured to a retracting mechanism mounted on or in the ‘B’ pillar rearward from the vehicle door, the outboard edge of the ceiling or floor, or in the seat back. A buckle for engaging with a receptacle positioned adjacent to the inboard side of the vehicle seat, is slidably attached to the belt. When not in use, the retracting mechanism biases the belt and buckle toward the outboard side of the vehicle.

[0004] To secure a restraint belt, the vehicle occupant typically must first twist around in the seat and reach across their body to try and grab the buckle that is located above and behind the seat. Next, the occupant must draw the buckle and belt across his body such that the shoulder belt portion extends from the retracting mechanism diagonally across the occupant's chest while the lap belt portion is directed across the occupant's lap. Finally, the occupant must releasably secure the buckle to the receptacle. Such prior art restraint systems are undesirable. It is awkward for an occupant to twist around and grab a buckle. Thus, statistics have shown that people will often forget or forego using such prior art restraint systems.

[0005] To overcome the problems associated with conventional restraints systems, another type of restraint system known as a “passive” restraint system has been developed. One such passive restraint system uses separate lap and shoulder belts. The lap belt is of a conventional design wherein a retracting mechanism is positioned adjacent to the seat on its outboard side. The shoulder belt has one end attached to the inside of the upper rear comer of the vehicle door. The other end is engaged with a separate retracting mechanism adjacent to the inboard side of the seat. When the vehicle door is opened, the belt extends from the inboard side of the seat away from the seat to the outer comer of the vehicle door, so as to enable the vehicle occupant to enter the vehicle between the shoulder belt and the seat. Once the door is pulled shut, the inboard end of the shoulder belt retracts, thereby securing the shoulder belt around the vehicle occupant. The lap belt is then separately secured across the occupant's lap. While restraint systems of this type reduce the problems associated with the awkward manual fastening of the restraint belt, the positioning of shoulder belt reduces the available room in which the vehicle occupant may enter and exit the vehicle, thus hindering entry and exit of the vehicle.

[0006] To provide more room to enter and exit the vehicle, another known type of passive restraint system has the outboard end of the shoulder belt attached to a movable shuttle riding in a track along the upper periphery of the door opening. When the door is opened, the shuttle automatically moves the outboard end of the shoulder belt forward along the track. More room is provided for the occupant to enter and exit the vehicle without becoming inadvertently entangled in the shoulder belt. The lap belt still must be separately and manually fastened across the occupant's lap in the conventional manner.

[0007] To simplify restraint systems, another known type of restraint system includes a pivotable armrest positioned on the outboard side of a vehicle seat that has a combination shoulder and lap restraint belt secured in a detent mechanism at the lower forward inboard end of the armrest. An end of the lap belt is anchored to the floor of the vehicle while an end of the shoulder belt is retractably attached to a belt reel and tensioner. When the armrest is in a lowered position, the detent serves to position the belt buckle in plain view and adjacent to the vehicle occupant to permit easier grasping of the belt buckle for fastening. A guide incorporated with the armrest further assures the proper positioning of the buckle. When the belt is unbuckled and the armrest raised, the buckle is automatically returned to the detent by belt reel and tensioner to maintain the proper positioning of the buckle for the next use. However, the addition of the guide and the detent to the armrest still provide additional manufacturing steps, thereby increasing costs.

[0008] Therefore, there exists a need for a restraint presentation system that insures reliable capturing and positioning of the belt for repeated use.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0009] The present invention is directed to a restraint belt presenter assembly for bringing a restraint belt forward comprising a housing having a slot with a recessed portion and a finger assembly movably received in the housing for movement relative to the slot. A biasing member is located in the housing for rotationally biasing the finger assembly toward an actuated position in the recessed portion of the slot. In addition, a track drive mechanism is connected to the housing for selectively driving the housing from an initial position to a final position.

[0010] The finger assembly further includes a shaft that is connected to a finger, preferably by a pivoting connection. Moreover, the shaft has a slot for receiving a portion of the finger and a bushing is optionally mounted on the shaft for reducing friction between the shaft and the housing. The drive mechanism includes a carriage moved along a track by a belt driven by a motor. Also, a projecting feature is provided along the return path of the presenter assembly for engaging the finger assembly and assisting in moving the finger assembly to the actuated position in a resetting or cocking motion.

[0011] Accordingly, the restraint belt presenter assembly of the present invention provides a reliable, efficient device for capturing a restraint belt, moving the belt to a presentation position, allowing a user to easily grasp the belt and remove it from the presenter, and returning the presenter to a starting position to once again be ready to capture the restraint belt during the next restraint belt presentation cycle.

[0012] The smooth offset rotary movement of the finger assembly provides a positive mechanical connection for the finger while engaging and moving the belt. In addition, the finger assembly retracts to a streamlined unactuated position to minimize the possibility of the finger interfering with surrounding structure such as the vehicle seat, while the presenter assembly is traveling back to its starting position.

[0013] In an alternative embodiment, a restraint belt presenter assembly is mounted to the underside of a vehicle seat, and includes a restraint belt engaging member that is movably mounted to a track drive mechanism. The track drive mechanism selectively moves the restraint belt engaging member through the restraint belt presenting cycle from a starting position at the rear of the vehicle seat to a presentation position at the forward edge of the vehicle seat.

[0014] In accordance with one aspect of the invention, the restraint belt engaging member includes a lower arm with a slot that cooperates with a selectively retractable upper arm. A top portion of the upper arm houses a retractable finger assembly. A screw member is positioned within the lower arm and is fixedly secured to a rotatable cog. A bottom portion of the upper arm is operatively connected to the screw member by a nut. The rotatable cog cooperates with a toothed track member positioned approximately mid-way between the starting position and the presentation position. As the rotatable cog meshes with the toothed track member when the restraint belt engaging member is traveling toward the presentation position, the rotatable cog causes the screw member to turn in a first predetermined direction to move the nut upwardly. The nut, in turn, causes the upper arm to move upwardly into the presentation position such that the restraint belt that is carried by the restraint belt engaging member is lifted upward and in easy view of a vehicle occupant when reaching the presenting position. The finger assembly retracts when the restraint belt is removed from the finger of the restraint belt engaging member.

[0015] In a second alternative embodiment, the restraint belt presenter includes a track mechanism similar to the previous embodiments and a restraint belt engaging member carried by a selectively movable carriage that travels between the starting position and the presentation position. In accordance with the invention, the carriage includes an upwardly extending mounting member thereon with a mounting aperture extending transversely therethrough. A hinge member that has a first pair of ears positioned parallel to one another and cooperate to form a channel. The first pair of ears are positioned on either side of the mounting member such that the mounting member is positioned in the channel. A mounting hole formed through the first pair of ears is aligned with the mounting holes and a suitable fastener is posited therein to pivotally connect the hinge member to the carriage.

[0016] The hinge member includes a second pair of ears that cooperate to define a second channel. A stop member is positioned between the second pair of ears along an edge of the hinge member. A mounting arm carrying the restraint belt engaging member is positioned within the second channel and pivotally connected to the hinge member.

[0017] In operation, a drive belt moves the carriage along the track member toward a forward edge of the vehicle seat. The restraint belt engaging member is initially at an approximately 90° angle such that the restraint belt engaging member pulls the restraint belt forward to the presentation positioned. Once the restraint belt is removed from the restraint belt engaging member, the hinge member moves upward and rearward approximately 180° such that a second surface of the hinge member is in face-to-face engagement with an upper surface of the carriage. The restraint belt engaging member is retracted to approximately 90°, its retraction motion being limited by the stop member, such that the restraint belt engaging member is generally parallel to the vehicle seat. To facilitate re-setting the restraint belt engaging member, a projecting feature is preferably provided with a ramp surface. The ramp surface engages the restraint belt engaging member to reposition the restraint belt to the initial starting position generally perpendicular to the carriage.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0018] The features and inventive aspects of the present invention will become more apparent upon reading the following detailed description, claims, and drawings, of which the following is a brief description:

[0019] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a restraint belt presenter attached to a vehicle seat.

[0020] FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a restraint belt presenter assembly according to the present invention.

[0021] FIGS. 3 is a perspective view of a restraint belt engaging member.

[0022] FIG. 4 is an exploded perspective view of a restraint belt engaging member according to the present invention.

[0023] FIG. 5 is a top view of a restraint belt engaging member.

[0024] FIG. 6 is a side view of the restraint belt engaging member.

[0025] FIG. 7 is a perspective view of a bracket.

[0026] FIG. 8 is a perspective view of a projecting feature.

[0027] FIG. 9 shows the restraint belt engaging member being reset to an actuating position.

[0028] FIG. 10 illustrates the restraint belt engaging member carrying a restraint belt forward.

[0029] FIGS. 11-13 illustrate a restraint belt engaging member at various positions during a restraint belt presenting process.

[0030] FIG. 14 is a perspective view of an alternative restraint belt presenter assembly attached to the underside of a vehicle seat.

[0031] FIG. 15 is a perspective view of an arm and presenting finger of the restraint belt presenter assembly of FIG. 14.

[0032] FIG. 16 is a cross-sectional view of the arm of the restraint belt presenter assembly of FIG. 14 in both a starting position and a presenting position.

[0033] FIG. 17 is a perspective view of the restraint belt presenter assembly of FIG. 14 in operation.

[0034] FIG. 18 is a perspective view of a presenting finger assembly in accordance with the present invention.

[0035] FIGS. 19-21 illustrate the operation of the presenting finger assembly of FIG. 18.

[0036] FIG. 22 is a perspective view of the restraint belt presenting assembly of FIG. 14 at various positions during a restraint belt presenting operation.

[0037] FIG. 23 is a second alternative restraint belt presenter assembly attached to a side surface of a vehicle seat.

[0038] FIGS. 24A-24C illustrate the presenting operation of the restraint belt presenter assembly of FIG. 23.

[0039] FIG. 25 is a cross-sectional view of a hinge member taken along lines 25-25 of FIG. 24c.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0040] FIG. 1 shows a restraint belt presenter assembly 20 mounted on a vehicle seat 22 according to the present invention. Restraint belt presenter assembly 20 includes a restraint belt engaging member 24 that is movably mounted to a track drive mechanism 26 for selectively moving the restraint belt engaging member 24 through the restraint belt presentation cycle from a starting position to a presentation position and back to the starting position.

[0041] FIG. 2 shows the restraint belt presenter assembly 20 including restraint belt engaging member 24 being mounted to a carriage 28 by mounting bracket 30. Track drive mechanism 26 includes a generally elongated track 32 for receiving and guiding carriage 28. Carriage 28 is connected to a drive belt 34 which is driven by a motorized drive gear assembly 35. Drive gear assembly 35 includes a tooth drive gear pulley 36 and a series of idler pulleys 38 located adjacent drive pulley 36 and at the ends of track 32. Drive pulley 36 is connected to a motor 40 for powering drive pulley 36.

[0042] FIG. 3 shows a perspective view of the restraint belt engaging member 24 mounted to mounting bracket 30. Restraint belt engaging member 24 includes a housing 42 having an L-shaped slot 44 with a recessed portion 46. Housing 42 is preferably a generally hollow cylinder for receiving a finger assembly 48. Finger assembly 48 is illustrated in FIG. 3 in a fully retracted position.

[0043] FIG. 4 shows restraint belt engaging member 24 in an exploded perspective view including housing 42 for receiving finger assembly 48 which includes a shaft 50 having a longitudinally extending slot 52 with an aperture 54 formed generally perpendicular to slot 52. Shaft 50 is preferably generally cylindrical in shape and includes a reduced diameter section 56 for mounting to a torsion spring 58. Respective ends 59 of torsion spring 58 are inserted into corresponding apertures 61, 63 provided in housing 42 and shaft 50, respectively. In addition, an optional but preferable bushing 60 is also mounted on shaft 50 to reduce friction between shaft 50 and housing 42. Next, a finger 62 is designed to be inserted into slot 52 of shaft 50 such that one end 64 of finger 62 having an aperture 66 is aligned with shaft aperture 54 and a pin 58 pivotally connects finger 62 to shaft 50. An extension spring 70 is further provided for biasing finger 62 relative to shaft 50 toward a retracted, unactuated position as shown in FIGS. 3, 5 and 6. Extension spring 70 has its respective ends anchored on shaft 50 and finger 62 using, for example a pin 65 located in a slot 67. Further, a switch 71 cooperates with restraint belt engaging member 24 and a control unit (not shown) to control movement of restraint belt engaging member 24.

[0044] FIG. 7 shows mounting bracket 30 having a generally Z-shaped profile and further including a least one aperture 73 for connecting bracket 30 to carriage 28.

[0045] FIG. 8 shows a projecting feature 72 that includes a ramp surface 74 for engaging finger 62 as restraint belt engaging member 24 returns to the starting position. Ramp surface 74 engages finger 62 and helps reposition finger 62 to an actuated position generally perpendicular to housing 42 as illustrated in FIGS. 9 and 10. Although projecting feature 72 is illustrated as a generally U-shaped bracket, it is envisioned to use any suitable shape that accomplishes re-setting of finger 62.

[0046] FIG. 9 shows a partial view of a restraint belt engaging member 24 traveling rearwardly toward its starting position as indicated by the arrow. FIG. 62 engages ramp surface 74 of projecting feature 72 such that finger 62 is moved from a retracted, unactuated position, generally coaxial with housing 42, to an actuated position located in recessed portion 46 of L-shaped slot 44 and generally perpendicular to housing 42. Torsion spring 58 rotates shaft 50 and finger 62 into recessed portion 46 once finger 62 pivots to a position above the recessed portion 46.

[0047] A restraint belt 80 is shown is FIGS. 9 and 10 and projecting feature 72 is positioned along the return travel path such that finger 62 is able to travel rearwardly without contacting or interfering with restraint belt 80. However, once finger 62 is in an actuated position as illustrated in FIG. 10, finger 62 is designed to catch and engage restraint belt 80 for traveling forward toward a restraint belt presenting position.

[0048] FIGS. 11-13 illustrate various stages of a restraint belt presenting cycle. In FIG. 11, restraint belt engaging member 24 is traveling forward with finger 62 in an actuated position carrying restraint belt 80. Finger 62 is biased to rotate into recessed portion 46 of L-shaped slot 44 by torsion spring 58.

[0049] FIG. 12 shows restraint belt 80 being pulled upwardly and laterally inwardly by a vehicle occupant who is strapping the restraint belt across her body. As illustrated by the arrows, restraint belt 80 pulls finger 62 upwardly and counteracts the biasing force of torsion spring 58 thereby raising finger 62 out of recessed portion 46. Simultaneously, finger 62 is biased rearwardly by extension spring 60 which pivots finger 62 to its retracted unactuating position illustrated in FIG. 13. Thus, when finger assembly 48 is moved to an actuated position, it undergoes an offset rotary locking type of motion wherein finger 62 pivots along a longitudinal slot 44 and then is rotated with shaft 50 downwardly relative to housing 42 such that finger 62 is stationed within recessed portion 46.

[0050] The restraint belt presenter of the present invention can be fabricated using any suitable materials, including but not limited to, steel, aluminum, and plastic.

[0051] FIGS. 14-20 illustrate an alternative embodiment of the restraint belt presenter assembly 100 mounted to the underside 102 of a vehicle seat 104 according to the present invention. Restraint belt presenter assembly 100 includes a restraint belt engaging member 106 that is movably mounted to a track drive mechanism 108 for selectively moving restraint belt engaging member 106 through the restraint belt presentation cycle from a starting position to a presentation position and back to the starting position.

[0052] As shown in FIG. 15, restraint belt engaging member 106 is mounted to a carriage 110 by a mounting bracket 112. Carriage 110 is operatively connected to track drive mechanism 108. More specifically, track drive mechanism 108 includes a generally elongated track 114 for receiving and guiding carriage 110. Carriage 110 is operatively connected to a drive belt 116 which is driven by motorized drive gear assembly 118 that is substantially identical to drive gear assembly 35. Drive gear assembly 118 includes a tooth drive gear pulley 120 and a series of idler pulleys 122 that are engaged by drive belt 116. Idler pulleys 122 are located adjacent drive gear pulley 120 and at the ends of track 114. Drive gear pulley 120 is connected to a motor 124 for powering drive gear pulley 120.

[0053] FIG. 15 shows a perspective view of restraint belt engaging member 106 mounted to mounting bracket 112. Restraint belt engaging member 106 includes a lower arm 126 with a slot 128. In accordance with the invention, a selectively retractable upper arm 130 is positioned in slot 128. A top portion 132 of upper arm 130 houses a finger assembly 134, to be explained in further detail below. Finger assembly 134 is illustrated in FIG. 15 in a presenting position.

[0054] FIG. 16 depicts the interior of restraint belt engaging member 106. A screw member 136 is positioned within lower arm 126. A first end 138 of screw member 136 is fixedly secured to a rotatable cog 140. A bottom portion 142 of upper arm 130 is operatively connected to screw member 136 by a nut 144. In accordance with one aspect of the invention, a toothed track member 145 is positioned alongside vehicle seat 104 at approximately the midpoint between the starting position and the presenting position. Toothed track member 145 includes a plurality of teeth 146. Rotatable cog 140 engages in a mating fashion with teeth 146 as restraint belt engaging member 106 travels between a starting position and a presenting position. As rotatable cog 140 meshes with teeth 146, rotatable cog 140 causes screw member 136 to turn in a first predetermined direction and move nut 144 upwardly. Nut 144, which is engaged with screw member 136, in turn causes upper arm 130 to move upwardly as restraint belt engaging member 106 travels toward the presenting position at a forward edge 148 of vehicle seat 104, as best seen in FIGS. 17 and 22.

[0055] FIGS. 18-21 depict the finger assembly 134 that cooperates with lower and upper arms 126 and 130 to deliver a restraint belt 150 to a vehicle passenger. Finger assembly 134 is contained within a cap housing 152 positioned on top portion 132 of upper arm 130. As best seen in FIG. 20, cap housing 152 has a slot 154 from which a selectively retractable presenting finger 156 protrudes. Presenting finger 156 preferably has a selectively rotatable outer surface of a tactile material to grip restraint belt 150.

[0056] Referring to FIGS. 18 and 19, finger assembly 134 includes a pivot member 158 rotatably mounted to a base member 160. Pivot member 158 includes two corresponding upstanding walls 161 that cooperate to define a channel therebetween. Presenting finger 156 includes mounting member 162 positioned between walls 161 and pivotally connected to pivot member 158 such that presenting finger 156 pivots about pivot point A. Mounting member 162 further includes a positioning lug 164 extending therefrom that cooperates with a recess 166 formed in base member 160, to be explained in further detail below. Finger assembly 134 further includes a first spring 168 for biasing positioning lug 164 in a predetermined position and a second spring 170 for biasing pivoting member 158 in a predetermined position. Base member 160 is secured to top portion 132 of upper arm 130.

[0057] Referring to FIGS. 17 and 20-22, the operation of restraint belt presenting assembly 100 will be explained. Restraint belt presenting assembly 100 initially is in the starting position, with carriage 110 carrying lower and upper arms 126 and 130 and finger assembly 134 being positioned adjacent the rear of vehicle seat 104. Presenting finger 156 is positioned at approximately a 90° angle from lower and upper arms 126 and 130 such that presenting finger 156 extends toward vehicle seat 104. Preferably, restraint belt presenter assembly 100 further includes a seat occupancy switch and either a door switch or ignition switch to initiate the presentation cycle of restraint belt presenter assembly 100. Thus, the vehicle occupant must be seated in vehicle seat and have either closed the vehicle door or turned on the ignition for restraint belt presenter assembly 100 to begin the presentation cycle. Once the vehicle door or ignition switch is activated, an electrical signal activates gear motor 124 to move drive belt 116. Drive belt 116 move carriage 110 to drive lower and upper arms 126 and 130 and finger assembly 134 along track 114 toward forward edge 148 of vehicle seat. Because presenting finger 156 is positioned at approximately a 90° angle, presenting finger 156 pulls restraint belt 150 forward, unwinding restraint belt 150 from a take-up reel 172 positioned along the rear edge of vehicle seat 104.

[0058] In accordance with one aspect of the present invention at approximately the mid-point of the presentation cycle (see FIG. 17), rotatable cog 140 attached to the bottom of screw member 136 engages tooth rack 145. Rotatable cog 140 cooperates with rack 145 to rotate screw member 136 a first predetermined direction. Screw member 136 cooperates with a nut 144 positioned on bottom portion 142 of upper arm 130 to drive upper arm 130 upwardly into a presenting position at the forward edge 148 of vehicle seat 104. Upper arm 130 rises from lower arm 126 approximately 4-5 inches by the end of the presentation cycle. Preferably, a limit switch 174, located at forward edge 148 of vehicle seat 104, adjacent a distal end of track 116 operates to de-activate motor 124 when carriage 110 contacts it. The rising motion of restraint belt presenter assembly 100 places presenting finger 156, and therefore restraint belt 150 and buckle 176, at a very convenient position alongside the leg of the vehicle occupant.

[0059] In accordance with another aspect of the invention, when the vehicle occupant removes restraint belt 150 from presenting finger 156, an offset rotary action of presenting finger 156 is activated. Referring to FIGS. 18-21, as restraint belt 150 is removed from presenting finger 156, positioning lug 164 is disengaged from recess 166, thereby allowing presenting finger 156 to be moved upward and twisted back approximately 90°. Once restraint belt 150 is completely removed from presenting finger 156, first and second springs 168 and 170 cooperate to return positioning lug 164 to recess 166.

[0060] Next, once buckle 176 is placed in a restraint belt receptacle (not shown), an electric switch in restraint belt receptacle triggers motor 124 to reverse the direction of drive belt 116 and return carriage 110 back to the starting position adjacent the rear of vehicle seat 104. As carriage 110 returns to the starting position, upper arm 130 is retracted back into slot 128 of lower arm. When restraint belt 150 is disengaged from the restraint belt receptacle, restraint belt 150 is retracted by take-up reel 172 in a conventional manner, thereby placing restraint belt 150 ahead of presenting finger 156.

[0061] A second alternative embodiment of a restraint belt presenter 200 is shown in FIGS. 23-25. Restraint belt presenter 200 includes a track mechanism 202 similar to track drive mechanisms 26 and 108 and a restraint belt engaging member 204 carried by a selectively movable carriage 206.

[0062] In accordance with the invention, carriage 206 includes an upwardly extending mounting member 208 thereon. Upwardly extending mounting member 208 may be fixedly secured to carriage 206 by welding or other suitable method, or formed integral with carriage 206. A mounting aperture (not shown) extends transversely through upwardly extending mounting member 208. Carriage 206 further includes at least one tooth member 210 that mates with and engages a groove 212 formed in track member 214 to facilitate movement of carriage 206 along track member 214.

[0063] In accordance with one aspect of the invention, restraint belt presenter 200 further includes a hinge member 216. Hinge member 216 includes a first pair of ears 218 that are positioned parallel to one another and cooperate to form a channel 220. First pair of ears 218 further include a mounting hole 222 positioned therethrough. First pair of ears 218 are positioned on either side of upwardly extending mounting member 208 such that upwardly extending mounting member is positioned in channel 220. The mounting aperture of upwardly extending mounting member 208 is aligned with mounting holes 222. A pin or other suitable fastener is positioned through the aligned holes 222 and aperture to pivotally connected hinge member 216 to carriage 208.

[0064] In accordance with another aspect of the invention, hinge member 216 includes a second pair of ears 224 that cooperate to define a second channel 226. Referring to FIG. 25, a stop member 228 is positioned between second pair of ears 224 along an edge of hinge member 216. Extending through second pair of ears 224 are mounting holes 230. A mounting arm 232 carrying restraint belt engaging member 204 is positioned within second channel 226. Mounting arm 232 further includes a mounting aperture (not shown) extending therethrough that aligns with mounting holes 230. A pin or other suitable fastener is used to pivotally connect mounting arm 232 to hinge member 216.

[0065] Referring to FIGS. 23-25, the operation of restraint belt presenting assembly 200 will be explained. Restraint belt presenting assembly 200 is initially in the starting position, with carriage 206 being positioned adjacent the rear of a vehicle seat 234. Restraint belt engaging member 204 is positioned at approximately a 90° angle from carriage 206 such that restraint belt engaging member 204 extends toward vehicle seat 234. Further, hinge member 216 is positioned so as to have a first surface 236 of hinge member 216 in face-to-face contact with an upper surface 238 of carriage 206.

[0066] Preferably, restraint belt presenter assembly 200 further includes a seat occupancy switch and either a door switch or ignition switch to initiate the presentation cycle of restraint belt presenter assembly 200. Thus, the vehicle occupant must be seated in vehicle seat 234 and have either closed the vehicle door or turned on the ignition for restraint belt presenter assembly 200 to begin the presentation cycle. Once the vehicle door or ignition switch is activated, an electrical signal activates a gear motor to move the drive belt of track mechanism 202. The drive belt moves carriage 206 along track member 214 toward a forward edge 242 of vehicle seat 234. Because restraint belt engaging member 204 is positioned at approximately a 90° angle, restraint belt engaging member 204 pulls the restraint belt 244 forward, unwinding restraint belt 244 from a take up reel 246 positioned adjacent vehicle seat 234.

[0067] Once restraint belt presenting assembly 200 reaches the presenting position and the vehicle occupant grasps restraint belt 244, hinge member 216 moves upward and rearward approximately 180° such that a second surface 240 of hinge member 216 is in face-to-face engagement with upper surface 238 of carriage 206. Further, restraint belt engaging member 204 retracts in response to a biasing spring (not shown) that cooperates with the mounting arm 232 approximately 90°, its retraction motion being limited by stop member 228, to as to be generally parallel to vehicle seat 234. Once the vehicle occupant buckles up, preferably a switch activates track mechanism 202 to return carriage 206 back to the starting position adjacent the rear of vehicle seat 234.

[0068] To facilitate re-setting restraint belt engaging member 204, restraint belt presenting assembly further includes a projecting feature mounted to a vehicle car door, such as that shown in FIG. 8. The ramp surface 74 of projecting feature 72 engages restraint belt engaging member 204 and help repositioned restraint belt engaging member 204 to the initial position generally perpendicular to carriage 206, as illustrated in FIG. 23.

[0069] Preferred embodiments of the present invention have been disclosed. A person of ordinary skill in the art would realize, however, that certain modifications would come within the teachings of this invention. Therefore, the following claims should be studied to determine the true scope and content of the invention.