It's never a good urban parenting moment. You jam the heavy car seat you've lugged to the curb into the back of your car, while simultaneously jamming yourself half in, too. Then you twist into a pretzel to secure the seat to the seat belt. And there's no cutting corners. All 50 states require you to put your baby in a child seat and 48 states want you to use a booster seat as they get older, based on certain weight requirements. You have no choice.
Today, Volvo revealed a new concept that could change the industry. What's so great about it? It’s inflatable. It fits in a bag.
Rather than being constructed out of rigid plastic and metal, their seat uses heavy duty drop-stitch fabric--the same stuff you’ll find in outdoor gear such as inflatable rafts. So you can pull that car seat out of a bag, and watch it balloon into a seat. It does this amazing feat in 40 seconds, thanks to a silent internal pump. You can even set it to inflate from your phone via Bluetooth, if you're into that extra effort.
The seat is designed to be rear-facing, which would imply that it’s designed for children up to about age three. Otherwise, there are almost no other details available at this time. Volvo has no immediate plans to bring it to market.
While it’s certainly a compelling concept--it inflates like magic!--it's dubious whether it offers suburban parents much of an advantage. Because they can strap in a car seat and leave it there for years. No car rentals, no walk-ups. And while car seats are bulky and heavy, some have more than one use. Infant seats, for example, click conveniently into strollers, and have a handle--which creates a fun grab-and-go concept for your little one.
That said, parents have a lot of gear. Is an inflatable car seat worth it or another luxury? What if the design were built right into Volvo cars, allowing a spontaneous pop-up child seat when you need one? Now that has appeal.