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Weekly Innovation: An Inflatable Car Seat That Comes In A Backpack

Volvo's inflatable car seat prototype goes from backpack to rear-facing seat in 40 seconds.
Courtesy of Volvo
Volvo's inflatable car seat prototype goes from backpack to rear-facing seat in 40 seconds.

Forget wearables, let's talk about inflatables.

Volvo's new child safety seat concept is a fully inflatable device designed to make what's normally a clunky and heavy seat both lighter and more portable.

So compact is this prototype that it goes from a stylish-looking backpack into a rear-facing car seat in less than a minute. You can pump it in the car — the seat comes with its own pump — and it's Bluetooth-connected so you could pump it remotely.

When inflated, the seat weighs just under 11 pounds.

Gizmag talked with Volvo and tells us more:

" '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.'

"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."

Will this prototype actually get manufactured? It's still in the development stage, according to Volvo. And it seems a lot depends on whether it passes Volvo's rigorous safety tests, meets government standards to go to market and — most important — whether parents actually trust an inflatable car seat to safely protect their children when driving around. As with other inflatables, it could pop leaks.

But if you and your family have ever tried going out of town and taking along the standard car seats available today, you probably understand why we're so excited about this week's innovation pick. Do you have other hardware innovations to share? Fill out our form.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Elise Hu is a host-at-large based at NPR West in Culver City, Calif. Previously, she explored the future with her video series, Future You with Elise Hu, and served as the founding bureau chief and International Correspondent for NPR's Seoul office. She was based in Seoul for nearly four years, responsible for the network's coverage of both Koreas and Japan, and filed from a dozen countries across Asia.
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