In what is being billed as revolutionary, luxurious, and a complete game-changer in family travel, Swedish carmaker Volvo has unveiled a new car model that has everyone talking.
What makes it so different than the competition? Well, for one, they’ve included a built-in child safety seat. But even more surprising? They put it in the front passenger seat.
Yes, they’ve removed the shotgun seat and replaced it with a rear-facing, swiveling baby seat (not to mention additional storage beneath). They call it the Excellence Child Seat Concept.
The idea is that one parent can drive with easy access to the child, and any additional caregivers can sit in the backseat, facing the child. Their aim, they say, was to design a car that would make life easier for parents and safer for their children — in a way that blended functionality with luxury.
Three key benefits (according to Volvo) to this new design include:
- Ease: It’s easier to get the child into and out of the child seat from an ergonomic and comfort perspective.
- Safety: The car seat is rearward-facing, which is the recommendation for small children up to the age of 3 or 4. It also enables the child to keep eye-contact with either the driver or the rear passenger.
- Storage: By adding a pull-out drawer beneath the car seat, parents can store diapers, bottles, wipes, etc. that they can access easily.
To see the car seat in action, take a look at Volvo’s demonstrative video:
“For us the safety, convenience, and emotional factors outweigh everything else,” said Volvo Cars Concept and Monitoring Center Chief Designer of Interiors Tisha Johnson.
“Being able to maintain eye contact with your child from the rear seat,” Johnson continued, “or being able to keep a bottle warm in the heated cup holders in the XC90 Excellence, would go a long way towards making life easier for parents taking their small child on a trip. Such alternative seating arrangements will become increasingly important as we move towards autonomous vehicles.”
Okay, we freely admit to being wooed by the image of a bottle warming in a cup holder within arm’s reach (like, really wooed) but is it actually safe? We asked our resident car seat expert Katie Loeb for her thoughts, and let’s just say, they weren’t overwhelmingly positive.
“My two main concerns with this design,” Loeb told us, “are proximity to crashes and distracted driving. Even in cars without airbags, we recommend putting kids in the back seat [because] it removes them from one of the most common points of impact in a crash: the front of the vehicle.”
“Having a rear-facing seat in the front,” Loeb continued, “not only puts the child closer to a frontal impact, but more importantly, it puts their head closest to the point of impact. Conversely, if you have a child rear-facing in the backseat, their head and spine, which encases their developing nervous system, is in the middle of the vehicle and thus farthest from all potential points of impact.”
In addition, Loeb argues that having the baby so close to the driver increases the potential for distracted driving:
“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. I get the idea that an adult could sit behind the baby and tend to them, but they can just as easily sit next to a rear-facing baby in the backseat.”
Not to mention, on a day-to-day basis most parents don’t have a second-in-command at the ready to sit in the backseat and watch the baby for them.
While Loeb would not recommend the new design, she does support the integration of car seats into vehicles, saying it “could be revolutionary in terms of preventing improper installations.”
“But more importantly, I’d like to see children in the backseat where we know they are safest.”
Would you try out the Excellence Child Seat Concept?
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