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Volvo introduces inflatable child car seat concept

By

April 14, 2014

From backpack to child seat in about a minute

From backpack to child seat in about a minute

Image Gallery (7 images)

Volvo isn't afraid to try new things with inflatables. Those things include its pedestrian airbag and now a child safety seat concept. The new concept has nothing to do with crash-activated airbag systems though, it's a child seat with a fully inflatable structure designed to make the seat lighter and more portable.

Volvo may be far more well known for designing the vehicles that child seats are installed in, but it also has a long history of developing child seats themselves. It began designing child seats half a century ago with what it refers to as the world's first rear-facing child seat prototype. It also takes credit for developing the first rear-facing ISOFIX seat. The Inflatable Child Seat Concept revealed this week is its latest innovation.

Volvo introduced its first child seat prototype in 1964

"For me, child safety is always the number one priority, and when we lived abroad with two toddlers we had to haul bulky child seats through airports and then into taxis," explains Lawrence Abele, the design manager at Volvo's Monitoring and Concept Center in LA. "For many, traveling with young children is a challenge; any assistance to simplify the parents’ life with young children is a great thing."

What Abele and colleagues came up with is an inflatable car seat that breaks down to fit into a weekend-sized backpack. At the car, a quiet pump system inflates it into full, child-cradling form within 40 seconds. The seat is also Bluetooth-connected, allowing for remote inflation. It weighs less than 11 lb (5 kg), which Volvo says is about half the weight of a contemporary child seat. Like Volvo's very first child seat, the inflatable car seat faces rearward.

"The basic principle remains the same as fifty years ago," says Professor Lotta Jakobsson, senior technical specialist at Volvo Cars Safety Center. "The smallest children must always travel facing the rear until the age of three to four."

Inflatable Child Seat Concept with cushion installed

For strength and durability, Volvo uses a drop-stitch fabric imported over from the boating industry. Since the inflatable car seat is a concept and not a marketable product, Volvo doesn't specify whether or not it meets applicable safety regulations. All Abele says on the matter is: "The goal was to design a seat as safe, or safer, than anything on the market right now, but second to that, I want everyone, including kids, to be exposed to great design every day."

As much as we like innovative inflatables, a child seat seems like a misapplication of inflatable design. There are few things in the world that a parent would want to exceed the highest engineering and safety standards more than a car seat. Using an inflatable system that could potentially pop or develop a leak, even if it is every bit as safe as a regular car seat on paper, seems like it would be an awfully difficult sell.

What do you think? If Volvo were to pursue this design and put it on the market, would you consider an inflatable car seat for your child?

Source: Volvo

About the Author
C.C. Weiss Upon graduating college with a poli sci degree, Chris toiled in the political world for several years. Realizing he was better off making cynical comments from afar than actually getting involved in all that mess, he turned away from matters of government and news to cover the things that really matter: outdoor recreation, cool cars, technology, wild gadgets and all forms of other toys. He's happily following the wisdom of his father who told him that if you find something you love to do, it won't really be work.   All articles by C.C. Weiss
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7 Comments

Great idea ! Bravo to Volvo or creating a solution to a very real problem.

Rental car companies won't like it as they rent this ''option'' for families. I have, however, had the unpleasant experience of reserving a seat and then none was available. Quite a conundrum ! What do you do ? Well, we went out, baby in arms, to the nearest shop and bought one. Had this seat existed...

Finally, this could be an absolutely fabulous innovovation for cyclists. Light weight. Safe. And ''airbag''-like ! It should find a ready customer base among cycling families.

duh3000
15th April, 2014 @ 04:57 am PDT

Initially, I think it will be a hard sell, but I also don't think Volvo would put it on the market until they had rigorously tested it and had confidence in their product. I agree with Duh3000 about its utility for cycling, though the electric pump would have to go which would, for cyclists, be an improvement. Bikers carry their own pumps and this device would be even lighter than the ones for cars.

HighPockets
15th April, 2014 @ 10:01 am PDT

Well done Volvo! First as a parent, now a grand-parent, the default blow-molded frames with padding covered in fabric are awkward monstrosities. An inflatable child seat addresses all the issues and raises the bar...light weight, greater comfort, greater safety, and better storage when not in use. This is awesome...make it work and patent it!

Threesixty
16th April, 2014 @ 02:06 am PDT

Upon further reflection, how about a child airbag? Something that can be hooked on and plugged in to the default airbag circiut?

Threesixty
16th April, 2014 @ 02:14 am PDT

The problem with hard shell car seats is the great difficulty, discomfort and danger arising when you have to fit two more kids into the back seat. An inflatable seat is likely to be a better solution here.

moreover
16th April, 2014 @ 02:47 am PDT

Assuming the bladder wall is thicker than a balloon and more like hydration bladders, and it's further insulated from harm by being inside the material shell, and that some portions still have rigid stays (think internal frame backpack), I think it's a great idea. More like a crash bag or avalanche shell that's child sized, adjustable in size (backpacks again) and voila.

D&F
17th April, 2014 @ 02:46 pm PDT

Where do i get this baby seat? Is it sold like an accessory? Thank you in advance for your help.

Jorge Sánchez
30th September, 2014 @ 08:04 am PDT
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