April 14, 2014

Volvo Car Group celebrates 50 years of dedication to child safety, unveils Inflatable Child Seat Concept

Volvo Car Group's (Volvo Cars) dedication to protecting the smallest and most vulnerable car occupants celebrates its 50-year anniversary in 2014. This ground breaking work started with the world's first rear-facing child seat prototype in a PV544 back in 1964 -
and the latest innovation is an Inflatable Child Seat Concept that is easily tucked away in a small bag when not in use.

The differences in anatomy between children and adults form the foundation for Volvo Cars' child safety developments both in terms of car integrated features and accessories. Children are not small versions of adults, which is why children need special restraints when travelling in cars.

"The basic principle remains the same as fifty years ago. The smallest children must always travel facing the rear until the age of three to four. Older children should use a booster cushion or booster seat that makes sure that the lap belt is correctly fitted over the pelvis," said Professor Lotta Jakobsson, Senior Technical Specialist at Volvo Cars Safety Centre.

Children's car seats are historically bulky, hard to move and tedious to mount. This is why Volvo Cars has designed a lightweight and inflatable rearward-faced child seat concept using ground-breaking technology. The seat is safe and easy to pack and carry. It will also enable parents to use it in many situations not practical with the seats on the market today.

Lawrence Abele, Design Manager at the Volvo Monitoring and Concept Center in Los Angeles and the designer behind the new seat, had his two children in mind while designing the concept seat. "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. For many, traveling with young children is a challenge; any assistance to simplify the parents' life with young children is a great thing," said Lawrence.

The concept presents new opportunities, for example grandparents and friends who take care of your kids and need an ultra mobile child seat. It is also very convenient when travelling by taxi, rental car or bus, situations where you historically had to rely on the safety measures available.

"We used a unique material called drop-stitch fabric when creating the prototype of the seat. This fabric is very strong when inflated as it can be brought to a very high internal pressure. It is a quite common technology in the boating industry and was originally developed by the military in an effort to develop inflatable airplanes," said Maria Hansson, Project Manager at Volvo Monitoring and Concept Center in Los Angeles.

Inflates in 40 seconds
The seat has an innovative pump system that is silent and efficient in its construction. The seat inflates in less than 40 seconds and deflates with an integrated pump. The total weight of the seat is less than 5 kg, half the weight of a contemporary seat. It is constantly online via Bluetooth, enabling a wide range of features, including remote controlled inflation. It fits into a weekend bag, together with other necessities for your child.

Rear-facing safest
The Inflatable Child Seat Concept faces the rear of the car, as it is the safest way for children to travel. A child's neck is under development and not as strong as an adult's neck. In the event of a frontal impact collision, the head of a forward-facing car occupant is thrown forward inducing great strain on the neck. Children therefore need special restraints and to face the rear of the vehicle until at least 3-4 years of age.

Some of the most important milestones in Volvo Cars' child safety history
> 1964 - First child seat prototype: Inspired by how astronauts travel rearwards, Bertil Aldman, medical doctor and subsequently Professor in Traffic Safety at Chalmers University of Technology, developed the very first child seat prototype. Volvo was closely involved in the development and testing was carried out in a PV544.
> 1967 - Reversible front passenger seat with special child backrest: The first child seat to be sold to customers was created by turning the front passenger seat around. Adding a padded backrest with straps made sure that the rearward-facing child was kept in place. The solution was sold as an accessory for the recently introduced Volvo Amazon.
> 1972 - Volvo's first rearward-facing child seat: Rearward-facing child seats are designed to support the neck and help spread the force of a frontal impact over a larger area. Frontal impacts are the most frequent and usually the most severe impact situation.
> 1976 - The booster cushion – a world first from Volvo: Children from three to four years and up travel facing forwards using the standard safety belt with a belt-positioning booster cushion. Volvo Cars' policy is that children should use a booster cushion until they are 140 cm tall and ten years old. When using a booster cushion, the child runs an approximately 75 per cent lower risk of being injured compared to being unrestrained.
> 1990 - World's first integrated booster cushion: The first integrated booster cushion was an ingenious fold down and out version in the rear centre position in the Volvo 960. Double integrated pop-up booster cushions in the outer rear seats were introduced in the Volvo S40 in 1995.
> 1999 - World's first rearward-facing seat for ISOFIX: The world-first solution for the standardised, car-integrated ISOFIX fittings was actually two rearward-facing seats in one. Both seats - one for infants and one for toddlers up to four years of age - could be fitted in the same ISOFIX frame.
> 2007 - World's first two-stage integrated booster cushion: Two-stage integrated booster cushions were introduced in the Volvo V70 estate. The two-stage version, with two sitting heights, enables a better belt fit regardless of the child’s size. Child adapted safety belt load limiters were also fitted.
> 2014 - Inflatable Child Seat Concept: The innovation, which is still in the development stage, is easy to install and can be tucked away in a small bag when not in use. This means that the child seat can be easily transferred between cars and the bag even fits in carry-on luggage when flying or travelling.


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