PARENTS

Volvo Introduces Controversial New Child Car Seat Concept

10/07/2015 10:37 BST | Updated 10/07/2015 11:59 BST

Volvo's new child seat design could revolutionise the way kids travel in cars, but parents and safety experts have posed a few questions about the concept.

On 2 July , Volvo unveiled its Excellence Child Seat Concept - a seat that can swivel and lock in a rear-facing position, located in the front passenger area.

The design shows how it would look in the 2016 XC90 SUV.

"We started by asking ourselves if we could make life easier for parents and safer for their children when it comes to the child seat experience," Tisha Johnson, Chief Designer Interiors at Volvo Cars Concept and Monitoring Centre, said in a press release.

carseat

Johnson added: "We focused on three key benefits - making it easier to get the child into and out of the child seat from an ergonomic and comfort perspective, providing the child with a safe rearward facing seating position that enables it to keep eye-contact with either the driver or the rear passenger and of course including enough storage for those vital child accessories, such as diapers, bottles, wipes, and so on.”

Johnson also added that the design would allow parents to keep bottles warm in the car's heated drink holder - the type of convenience that could "go a long way towards making life easier for parents taking their small child on a trip."

While many parents praised the new concept, some raised concerns about the safety of the design.

When Volvo shared a picture of the design on Facebook, several commenters brought up the dangers of seating a child so close to the airbags and the laws that prohibit just that.

"If an airbag deploys behind a rear facing seat in the front seat, the power of the airbag deploying could crush the back of the car seat and seriously injure the child," Donna M. Laake, Injury Prevention Coordinator at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, told The Huffington Post.

"Even with 'smart airbags' in most new vehicles, I would not trust that the airbag would be turned off and not put my child at risk."

In response to the Facebook comments, the Swedish company explained that the design concept ensures that the frontal passenger airbag is always disabled.

"From a safety perspective there is no difference between the rear seat or front seat, given that the airbag is disconnected," the Swedish company's page said in a comment reply.

car seat

Laake told Huffington Post: "Babies are MUCH safer being in the rear seat, especially in the rear centre seating position.

"In a car crash, the child is in the centre of the vehicle and less likely to get injured when hit from the front, side or back.

"Being in the front seat does not offer that protection. In fact, best practice is to remain in the rear seat until age 13."

Volvo stated in a later comment, "All seating positions are equally safe in a Volvo car since we design each seating position according to the same safety specification" - specifications, which the company says are based on "real world crash data."

Beyond the seat's location, others have raised concerns about the danger of distracted driving with this design.

Speaking with Babble, child passenger safety technician Katie Loeb said: "Yes, it would be great to see the baby and make sure they’re okay while on long trips, but I think there’s a huge potential for drivers to tend to the baby while driving, which will take their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel."

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Loeb also echoed Laake's concerns about the safety of seating a baby in the front passenger area.

As of now, the design remains no more than a concept, but as more parents and child safety experts weigh in, it's possible that Volvo will fine tune its vision.

After all, as the press release states, "alternative seating arrangements will become increasingly important as we move towards autonomous vehicles."

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