The baby cocoon: Seat will wrap child in bubble if car crashes protecting infants from fire and dialling 999
07:47 GMT, 11 April 2012
A car seat that cocoons a baby in a protective shell in the event of an accident has been unveiled by British engineers.
The rear-facing Carkoon is also fireproof, providing the child with up to 20 minutes of air and insulating it from a blaze.
And for easy release in an accident – or during an everyday trip to the supermarket or nursery – the seat can be swivelled round to face the door, so the child can be easily unbuckled and lifted out.
The Carkoon could be on sale as early as next year but, at around 499, will be considerably more expensive than a standard child seat.
Its main feature is an airbag that folds out on impact, enveloping the child in the seat. The youngster is protected from head to toe but has plenty of breathing space.
And, unlike traditional airbags that cushion passengers by deflating when hit, the Carkoon’s airbag stays inflated and rigid enough to withstand bombardment by any objects dislodged by the crash.
Inventor Jullian Preston-Powers said this is vital, as a stray water bottle or satnav can kill in a 30mph crash. Mr Preston-Powers, of Brighton-based Cool Technologies, said: ‘We have even bounced a brick off it.’
He came up with the idea after speaking to a Sussex fireman whose hands were badly burned when he tried to rescue a baby from a burning car.
Sadly, the fireman was unsuccessful and the baby died.
As well as the swivelling base and airbag, some Carkoon models will have a device that transmits a signal to the emergency services, letting them know there has been an accident with a baby involved.
This means the call-out can be given priority.
In Britain, car seats for babies usually face backwards while those for toddlers face forwards.
Inspired by tragedy: The Carkoon's inventor came up with the idea after speaking to a Sussex fireman whose hands were badly burned when he tried to rescue a baby from a burning car. (Stock image)
But, with studies showing rear-facing seats provide vital added protection to the head and neck in a crash, Mr Preston-Powers is campaigning for them to be made compulsory for all children under four.
Some countries already have such laws, with Sweden requiring rear-facing seats until the age of three.The Carkoon comes with a small mirror which, when attached to the rear windscreen, allows the driver to see the baby and vice versa.
A prototype seat underwent crash testing at the Transport Research Laboratory in Berkshire last month.
But, before it can reach the market, Cool Technologies will need to establish that the airbag does not pose any risk to the child or hinder its rescue from a car in an emergency.