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.
"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."
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?