The recent unveiling of the prototype Carkoon child car seat, which is made of Kevlar and uses an airbag to protect your baby in a crash, got me thinking. Is it worth spending time on innovations like this?
In an accident the Carkoon child car seat (which is estimated to cost £499) deploys a ‘Kevlar AirShield’, which cocoons the baby in a protective air pocket, where the material will resist fire for some time, hopefully until the emergency services arrive.
I definitely have no objection with children and babies getting the best protection possible – in fact it’s something I’ve been promoting for many years. And I have no qualms about technology being used to innovative new ways to reduce the numbers of casualties on the road, even if others might think it’s health and safety gone mad.
However, I do think its creators need to prove that the technology actually works, and that focusing on making it technologically advanced doesn’t create a potential hazard that conventional technology would have avoided.
One small step for man…
The Carkoon also got me thinking about the sources of new and innovative products. I’m a fan of innovation. It’s what I like about seemingly indulgent activities, such as space exploration. And it gives me an interest in the otherwise crazy world of Formula 1 racing.
And even though I’m not terribly interested in watching Formula 1 or going into space, I think these activities worthwhile for the simply fact that they inspire our technological limits to be pushed. This in turn creates a way forward for other industries, where there’s no natural desire (or budget), to develop great ideas.
For example, when I worked at a major car company as a design analyst back in the day, I was using computer systems originally developed by NASA for modelling space rockets. The same technology has allowed great advances in car safety too.
And everyone who uses a GPS device or mobile phone owes it all to those seemingly pointless space explorers.
One giant leap for car safety?
In the case of Carkoon’s child car seat, the Kevlar used in its design was originally developed as a lightweight high strength material, finding its first commercial application in F1 racing tyres.
Weight-for-weight, Kevlar is around five times stronger than steel and also has several other positive properties, such as fire resistance.
So, when you ask yourself whether space exploration or F1 races are worth it, my view is that they are. As long as the innovations they generate cascade down into more sensible everyday applications, like child car seats, we can all benefit.
And the Carkoon might be a giant leap in child car seat design, but even if it only makes a small step in improving car safety, it may be a step worth taking.