The seat belt buckle has been around so long that it’s almost a joke when a flight attendant’s safety instructions include how fasten one. TRW would change that, however, at least for some applications, with a new “semi-automatic” seatbelt attachment system. The belt system is part of a semi-standing seating arrangement in the microMAX concept vehicle from Rinspeed.
Instead of the buckle and tongue arrangement, the new TRW system simply loops the belt around a sort of hook called a “webbing catcher.” The passenger simply pulls the entire belt around, with no fumbling for a buckle, hooks it around the webbing catcher and then pushes the webbing catcher closed. The webbing catcher is unlocked by pushing an ordinary release button.
The seatbelt system is used in a semi-standing seat designed for short-hop transportation, as shown by Rinspeed’s microMAX. The passengers semi-straddle height-adjustable semi-saddles. Within a length of about 145 inches—Rinspeed cites the Mini Cooper as an equivalent—the “microMAX” contains the semi-standing driver plus three semi-standing passengers and an unfolded stroller or shopping cart.
It’s certainly more comfortable than standing, as any bus straphanger will tell you, but the semi-seat would be more male-friendly than for those wearing a tight skirt. Perhaps a sidesaddle mode would be possible? At east Rinspeed has a booster seat for small children. All in all, however, it looks semi-comfortable. (Please don’t tell discount airlines about this seat).
The seatbelt, however, is particularly intriguing, and could be applied to conventional seating as well. Children would find it easier to operate, and just think, no more groping for the seatbelt buckle down between the seats. Where the heck did that thing go…?
The semi-standing seats may have only a semi-future, but the latch-free seatbelt could be the next big thing in car safety.