Self-installing car seat at CES: 4moms’ latest baby gadget

4moms self-installing car seat

On a mission to make confident parents of the millennial generation, 4moms (Thorley Industries LLC) has gadgetized its latest baby product — the car seat, unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show this week.

Indeed, car seats save lives. But there’s a good chance that you have incorrectly installed your car seat, compromising its safety.

According to Benjamin Hoffman, MD, medical director of the Tom Sargent Children’s Safety Center at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, and professor of pediatrics in the OHSU School of Medicine, who authored a study on car seat installation, only five percent of families have installed their car seats without major mistakes. Surprisingly, even families with multiple children have been installing their car seats the wrong way. The problem with wrongly installed car seats is that they won’t function as they should, and could compromise safety in an impact scenario.

“Mistakes are common because car seats can be complicated,” Hoffman said. “The manual for the car seat does explain all the recommendations, but they can be hard to understand, and many people may not read them for a variety of reasons.”

Parents seeking certainty in their car seat install can stop by a police or fire station to have it checked by a certified professional, or they can buy the new self-installing car seat.

Developed using robotics technology and advanced sensors, the very techy car seat can ensure that the car seat auto-levels, auto-tensions, and continuously monitors its status. A digital display along the side of the car seat base provides a visual confirmation of the seat’s constant efforts, while smartphone integration adds the redundancies expected of modern technology.

“We haven’t done anything that’s going to be as impactful as the car seat,” said Rob Daley, CEO and co-founder of 4moms. “We have developed a car seat that not only talks you through the installation process and verifies that the seat is installed correctly, it also continuously monitors the status of the seat.  We’re solving a real problem, and giving parents peace of mind.”

How to install

BaseFive years in the making, the 4moms self-installing car seat guides parents through the installation process with both visual and voice commands.  After the parent connects the car seat base to the vehicle’s LATCH anchors, the base automatically levels and tensions, then provides confirmation that the base has been installed correctly. Every time the parent connects the carrier to the base they receive verbal and visual confirmation that the car seat is installed correctly and continuous monitoring is turned on.  The seat will notify parents if anything is amiss, like a disconnected LATCH or loss of tension, and provide guidance on how to correct.

Especially for the tech savvy, 4moms’ new car seat should instill peace of mind as well as confidence. This is something I’ve experienced with other 4moms products already – as a new parent, confidence doesn’t always come easily. But the engineering that goes into a 4moms playpen, even, makes my job significantly easier.

But adding technology to an existing and familiar product can sometimes add complexity, especially from the legal perspective when it comes to the juvenile market. Considering the federal mandates surrounding car seats in the U.S., I wondered if 4moms’ entry into this sector faced any challenges unique to this particular product. In this case, the existing standards surrounding car seats helped 4moms, requiring fewer safety tests than its self-folding stroller.

“The car seat is really just an extension of what we already do,” explained Daley. “When you think of the overall product line, the car seat is less of a departure than some of our other products. We need to perform at the moment of impact during a crash, and we meet all those requirements. What we’re doing that’s different is the installation process. At that moment of impact, we’re installed the correct way. With the stroller, there were over 200 new tests that we had to run because it’s self-opening and closing with a motor.”

4moms App Integration

Parents can download the 4moms app (iOS and Android) to help them customize the installation process as well as allow parents to utilize their smartphone to ensure that the car seat base is installed at the correct level, even if parked on an incline, which is critical during the installation process. The app uses the internal accelerometer and gyroscope in a smart device to calculate the incline. The app tells the base, which then compensates for this measured slope when auto-leveling.  Most premium car seats on the market only have a gravity ball within the base, which require the parent to move their vehicle to level ground for a correct installation. The 4moms self-installing car seat app experience also includes a VIN capture, which enables it to recommend a specific seat position for installation based on the vehicle make and model.

The app also features a verification dashboard that allows parents to view current seat status, providing confidence that the seat is installed correctly when in use.  The app can also be used to track growth of the baby, which enables it to give reminders to check harness and head rest position and proactively alert parents to when their baby is outgrowing the seat.

Additional Features

Car_seat_verificationThe 4moms self-installing car seat includes all the features parents expect in a premium seat:

  • A full coverage canopy complete with a peekaboo window and pop out shade for sun protection and added privacy.
  • An 8-position adjustable headrest with no-rethread harness that is easy to adjust as the baby grows and ensures the harness is always threaded correctly.
  • A 5-point harness system featuring harness pockets and a self-retracting buckle that make it easy to secure baby in the carrier.
  • An infant insert to provide a proper fit for even the smallest babies (4-11lbs).
  • Side impact protection that passes NHTSA’s proposed standard for side impact protection and features EPS foam and a deep foot well for added protection.

The 4moms self-installing car seat will be available at Buy Buy BABY, Inc., select specialty stores, and online in June 2016, with a retail price of $499.99.

You can learn more about the 4moms self-installing car seat here.

Years in the making

The concept for the self-installing car seat was first unveiled back in 2013 at the ABC Kids Expo, but production ran into some problems, hence the launch date was pushed back.  Fast forward to October 21, 2015, Back to the Future Day, 4moms released a promo video for the self-installing car seat which was taken as a hint that the contraption will soon be arriving. And now, the time has officially arrived.

Written by Kristen Nicole & Mellisa Tolentino. Image source: 4moms