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Volvo's Inflatable Car-Seat Concept

With a pioneering push, the automobile company envisions an easily transportable safety chair for kids

by Richard Prime in Design on 15 April 2014

There's no denying that the past 12 months have seen Volvo shake its former stereotype as a reflection of Sweden itself (safe, reliable, unremarkable perhaps) and replace it with a whole new appearance; one that now reflects Sweden's intangible coolness, with the Van Damme Epic Spits film and, internally in Sweden itself, a series of sprawling, grand advertisements blending Sweden's dramatic landscape with the likes of Swedish House Mafia.

Most recently it saw footballer Zlatan Ibrahimović deliver the Swedish national anthem in spoken word, glancing on issues of belonging and identity, ultimately rising to the sways of a child singing Sweden's national anthem. Epic in all senses, bold too; drawing much attention across the country. Volvo even drew excitement recently with the pre-release images of its latest model, wrapped in a bespoke Stutterheim cover. It's emerged from the brink of financial collapse with a new, cheeky edge and real sense of creativity. A living example of design-thinking bringing renewed interest and brand loyalty.

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This week Volvo returns to more familiar, car-related turf but brings more of that new pioneer spirit with a concept that—were it ever produced—would bring a collective sigh of relief to parents (and guardians, grandparents, aunts, uncles, big sisters, brothers—you name it) across the globe: an inflatable car-seat.

As anybody traveling in cars with kids knows, it's oftentimes a logistical nightmare. You have to account for giant strollers and plethora of baby accoutrements like diapers, toys, clothes, blankets, food, water, drinks, etc. Space is at a premium and nothing takes up quite as much room as the car-seat. (Indeed, take the trip in the car and replace it with trip on a plane and it's a whole new kind of nightmare.)

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All things considered, were it ever bought to market, Volvo's inflatable car-seat is one of the most lucrative no-brainers in recent history. If Hövding can make a safe, inflatable bicycle helmet then there's nothing to say a kids' car-seat can't also be created in the same way. Ultimately, it's dissipation of energy that counts and inflatables do that rather well.

Its creators at Volvo's Concept Center in LA have used a mix of military technology and advanced prototyping to bring forth a design that's every bit as safe as its regular 'static' counterpart, yet can be deflated in 40 seconds, stuffed into a bag and thrown into an overhead locker.

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Design-wise it's not far removed from existing seats, which envelop the child like a little parcel, shielding them from impact. Volvo's car-seat is the same in virtually all respects; just inflatable and easier to transport. The built-in inflator sits below the seat itself, which is rear-facing for extra safety and, while Volvo is keen to stress that this is a concept, it's not ruling out production in the future. In days of old, all cars in Scandinavia used to come with a blanket as standard. Considering the days of the chilly car are long gone, this would be the perfect, functional, convenient and modern equivalent.

Images courtesy of Volvo

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