microMAX and a New Approach to Seat Belts

Article From: 3/28/2013 Automotive Design & Production

TRW's seat belt concept for the microMAX.

The Rinspeed microMAX commuter vehicle concept. Powered by style. And wheel motors.

TRW developed a seat belt concept for the microMAX. No buckle and tongue. Rather, what’s called a “webbing catcher.”

Note how the seating configuration is more upright than is the norm. That’s because the microMAX is meant to be a short-distance transport vehicle.

The guy behind the wheel of the microMAX is probably as much a DJ and a barista (yes, there is a coffee maker and fridge on board) as he is a driver. If urban transport is going to proliferate, it might as well be cool.

If it’s the Geneva Motor Show, then it is undoubtedly time for an imaginative concept car from Rinspeed (rinspeed.eu), and this year it was no different. Frank M. Rinderknecht, head of Rinspeed, unveiled the microMAX, about which he said, “We have developed an intelligent and eco-friendly mobility concept complete with its own vehicle that combines the benefits of personal transportation with those of taxis, car-sharing services and carpool concepts as well as those offered by public transit. It uses the powerful UMTS and LTE data networks in urban centers and operates in real time.”

This boxy vehicle is about 3.6 meters long and 2.2 meters high. The vehicle, which is electric, deploying wheel motors, is designed to be an urban transporter that is capable of holding four people (including the driver), as well as cargo. Think of it, perhaps, as a small bus. Seating is somewhat unconventional, in that it is comparatively upright. This configuration undoubtedly facilitates access to the on-board coffee maker and refrigerator.

As is always the case with Rinspeed concept vehicles, a number of traditional suppliers are called on for their technical expertise. In this case, it ranges from Harmon International (harmon.com) to Linde Material Handling (linde-mh.de); from Evonik Industries (evonik.com) to Eberspächer (eberspacher.com).

And TRW (trw.com).

TRW developed a seat belt concept for the microMAX. Instead of the traditional seat belt buckle and tongue, there is what they’re calling a “webbing catcher,” which enables semi-automatic buckling and unbuckling.

Explains Swen Schaub, TRW senior manager, Engineering Strategy and Communication, “The concept is based on proven seat belt restrain functionality. The semi-automatic buckling offers convenience and ease of entering and exiting for new and conventional vehicle concepts—helping to increase belt usage rates over short distances.”

While the microMAX may stay conceptual, presumably this webbing catcher approach could catch on for urban transport use.