Fabric sensors to make car seats smarter and safer

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A composite view of what the BeBop smart material senses when someone is sitting in a car seat

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The problem with most car seats today is that the sensing devices in them can't distinguish the difference between say an inanimate bag of groceries versus a highly fidgety child if both are similar in weight. BeBop Sensors is working to change that with fabric sensors it's developed that are meant to make car seats smarter and thus safer.

According to BeBop, the average car seat is pretty dumb. They are equipped with what is called an occupant classification system (OCS) that's comprised of a series of bladders, hoses and pressure sensors to determine the weight of the car seat's occupant. But how many of us have placed a heavy item on a car seat only to have the seatbelt indicator light go on indicating the car seat thinks there's someone there who needs to buckle up?

What BeBop has created is a smart OCS system that can provide a greater level of detail by being able to distinguish a car seat occupant's size, weight and movements in real time. The latter includes sensing when someone is leaning forward or backward, right or left and crossing their legs. It can also detect something static like a baby seat.

A car seat with BeBop's system would be able to more accurately know when and how to deploy an air bag based on the person's position, weight and size at the moment of impact.

The key to this smarter approach is a waterproof, automotive grade fabric about 1 mm thick with built-in sensors. The company says the fabric can easily be custom-fitted and placed under the upholstery of seats of any size or shape, including the front or back row. The technology also has no moving parts, giving it high reliability, and is built to automotive grade in terms of environmental and durability specifications.

BeBop says it is starting to work with automobile manufacturers looking for more intelligent and dependable solutions to address the increasing failure rates and product recalls attributed to current OCS systems.

Take a look at the video to see how the BeBop smart fabric works in a car seat.

View gallery - 5 images

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