New parents usually go out and buy the latest child safety seat, along with a crib, high chair, and other paraphernalia. In the future, if they go out and buy the new Volvo XC90, they can skip the car seat. The car will come with one built in.
It's called the XC90 Excellence and the Lounge Console Concept, which will soon go into production. This ultra-luxury SUV started out as a chauffeured tri am, with no front passenger seat. That led to ideas about how to fill that empty space.
“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,” said Tisha Johnson, Chief Designer of Interiors at Volvo Cars Concept and Monitoring Center.
Johnson said the design team started with what were considered 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 them to keep eye-contact with either the driver or the rear passenger, and providing enough storage for vital child accessories, such as diapers, bottles and wipes.
According to Johnson, the idea didn't originate in a Volvo corporate office. Instead, it originated from a conversation with Volvo owner Li Shufu when he reviewed the XC90 Excellence Lounge Console Concept earlier this year. Shufu asked about all that space left by removing a front passenger seat and wondered how it could be used.
The design team at Volvo kicked around ideas and, in the process, designed a new way for small children to travel.
The design allows the parent to swivel the seat counter-clockwise when seating the child and then lock the seat into position facing the back seat. There is room to store small items beside the seat and a storage space underneath for diapers, blankets, or other larger items. There's even enough space for a tote bag at the front of the seat under the dashboard.
The design, which has a function to help small children safely lean back and sleep, is based on the accepted practice of having small children travel facing rearward until they are about 3 or 4 years old. Doctors recommend this because of the lack of muscular strength in the necks of small children and the disproportionate head size and weight in relation to the body.
“For us the safety, convenience, and emotional factors outweigh everything else,” said Johnson. “Being able to maintain eye contact with your child from the rear seat , 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.”
And, says Johnson, this kind of seating arrangement will become increasingly important as we move towards autonomous vehicles.
The standard version of the Volvo XC90 retails for just under $50,000. The special concept featuring the child safety seat is likey to cost significantly more.