When most of us imagine what future luxury cars might look like, we might picture ultra-comfy seats or watching movies during boring stretches of road. When the car-safety nerds at Volvo think about it, they come up with a safer way for the most vulnerable beings in our world—our kids—to travel by car.
As an alternative to strapping babies and small children into add-on seats in the back of the car (where we can’t even see them without some jerry-rigged mirror), Volvo’s designers have come up with the Excellence Child Seat Concept. Just unveiled in Sweden, it rethinks the interior of the car around everyone—baby, child, and adult—who rides in it. If you’ve ever had to wrangle a wriggling infant into an old-fashioned car seat, you’ll wonder why it’s taken us this long to come up with a better system.
The basic idea of the Excellence Child Seat Concept is to reconfigure the front passenger seat so that the child can sit there facing the back of the car—the safest way for small passengers to ride. “A child’s head weighs a lot more in proportion to the body, and the neck is weak,” explains Lotta Jakobsson, Child Safety Specialist at Volvo Cars in a press release. “That is why we strongly believe that children should travel in rearward facing child restraints until they are three-four years old.”
Volvo has done a lot of safety studies to arrive at this belief—and has the crash-test dummy reports to prove that young children do not fare well in crashes when facing forward. But in a rear-facing seat, the entire back of the seat supports the child’s spine and neck, providing a much better chance of escaping from accidents unscathed.
Once that front seat is removed and replaced with the smaller child seat, the interior opens up. Drivers or passengers in the back seat can easily see, touch, and tend to the child; eye contact is easier. Other conveniences are made possible, too: A drawer under the seat can hold toys and supplies. The seat swivels so that it’s easy to get a child in and out of the seat through the front door. The heated cup holders in Volvo’s XC90 become a great place to warm a bottle. When the car is in motion, the seat locks safely in place.
“We have been investigating the nature of progressive luxury for some time,” says Tisha Johnson, Chief Designer Interiors at Volvo Cars Concept and Monitoring Centre in the announcement. “And we see a direct connection between luxury and emotional well-being. For us the safety, convenience, and emotional factors outweigh everything else.”
As the name implies, the Excellence Child Seat Concept is just in the conceptual stage now. But it might not be long before babies of the future—and their parents—will get a safer ride.