Future Technologies for Kid’s Car Safety

Use a rear-facing car seat for small children. Don’t leave toddlers unattended. Buy a car with dual-stage airbags. Keep kids in the back seat until age 12. All good, but the crystal ball foretells so much more.

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Problem: Traveling by taxi, bus or rental car. Who wants to pay $50 in airline luggage fees for a car seat?

Solution: Volvo developed an inflatable car seat concept weighing 11 pounds. It inflates in less than 40 seconds with an integrated air pump. The material is drop-stitch fabric, originally used in the military for high-pressure applications on inflatable air planes. Lawrence Abele, Design Manager at the Volvo Monitoring and Concept Center in Los Angeles, says, “Actually, it would be better for all of us to travel facing the rear but given how cars are designed nowadays it’s not feasible” – probably because of motion sickness.

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Problem: A child left unattended in a vehicle can die from heat stroke in interior temperatures rising up to 140 degrees.

Solution: TOMY, a St. Louis-based company, developed a smart car seat that measures ambient temperature, detects improper seat installation and senses when a child unbuckles him or herself. If something goes wrong, an alert is sent to the parent’s home.

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Problem: In 2010, 63 children died in America from non-traffic front-end accidents. Kids – and taller pedestrians – perish every year from front-end collisions.

Solution: Once again, Volvo takes the lead. The Europe-only V40 features an external airbag that deploys over the base of the windshield and A-pillar to protect pedestrians from smacking into the windshield. The passive airbag was designed to inflate at speeds less than 31 mph to limit head injuries.

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Problem: Dad leaves for work at 8:00 a.m. He doesn’t see 18-month-old Charlie playing behind the car. Bump-bump.

Solution: Around 50 children die every year from rear rollover accidents. Next-generation rearview cameras include infrared night vision, hydrophobic screens and a widescreen field of view. The Department of Transportation (DOT) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are both calling for rearview cameras to be mandated on all new vehicles.

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Problem: During motor vehicle collisions, rear seat passengers are likely to suffer from collar bone fractures and neck whiplash injuries.

Solution: Ford produced the industry’s first inflatable rear seat seatbelt. The belt looks and acts normally during everyday use. During a crash, sensors inflate the accordion-folded bag, which distributes force across five times more area than a normal belt.