April 8, 2006

The Boy In The Newly Invented Plastic Bubble Car Seat

inventor_car_seat.jpgSo Make Magazine's blog has another recap of ABC's American Inventor series. The episode this week featured a dad who invented an egg-shaped car seat that allows the baby to rotate inside it in the event of an accident.

Not clear how this helps, and I guess the car seat it actually more teacup-shaped, like a baby-sized ride at Disneyland. [Hey, it IS ABC.]

It doesn't rotate, but the massive Bebeconfort Creatis car seat IS very egg-shaped. In fact, their whole concept is eggs in a nest [which doesn't seem all that reassuring to me, maybe it works in French?]

And of course, the Orbit Infant System is kind of egg-shaped, too, and the base rotates into place for easy lock-and-loading from any angle. But without seeing the inventor's car seat in action, it sounds to me that side impact protection is the issue.

One other feature of the Orbit that comes to mind is especially important for the rear-facing phase. From what I took away from my talk with one of the Orbit engineers, US safety requirements don't even include anything about car seats staying put and not flopping back toward the rear seatback, which is just what you'd expect them to do in a front-end accident, right?

The Orbit's car seat base actually has structure to hold the car seat on the seat. It made me wonder about our base-free Maxi-Cosi Cabrio, but then, it appears the EU doesn't have requirements like that, either.

ABC's American Inventor, Episode 4 Recap
[makezine via boingboing]
See the Bebeconfort Creatis on their flash-soaked site [bebeconfort.com]
It's not the kind of thing you want to rush, true, but where is that Orbit Infant System? I'm looking forward to it. [orbitbaby.com, babygeared's taking pre-orders for May deliveries]


I saw that episode and the point is that the baby effectivly becomes a ball bearing in a casing so that the force of a crash is absorbed by the ball slightly rotating thus preventing jerking around or what is thought of as the second collission - the baby hitting the straps.

Think of a yolk inside the egg suspended in albumen - safe.

I like it.

When you play around with the Maxi Cosi, it becomes pretty clear that it's more or less designed to flop up against the back of the seat. That's what the handle is there for- to stop it going all the way. If you look at the Britax, the base has a loop that sits up against the seat back to prevent rearward rotation. They also tell you to put the handle down when the seat is installed- presumably to remove the risk of the head hitting it if the belts are loose or something.

I'm not too sure about this one though. The real important thing is to prevent rapid acceleration forces from acting on the body, so the design of the padding and belts is really the most critical part of that. It's also important to keep the head and neck located right to prevent injuries to the spine. It's hard to judge the merits of this without running it on a crash sled a few times.

The recent consumer reports tests found that many seats don't properly prevent the carseat from rebounding into the back of the seat. What was more interesting (being a Maxi-Cosi user) was that the seats that were designed for the LATCH system were FAR more likely to fly off the seat or go bouncing around in an accident. The ones that were held in place with seatbelts absorbed energy much better and stayed in place (that being what 50 years of seatbelt design has been focused on doing).

[here's a link to the consumer reports findings. thanks -ed.]

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