Self-driving cars are rising in popularity. However, the more the public learns about them, the more questions they seem to have. The most common concerns about autonomous cars are related to their safety, and the most important safety feature on any car is the seat belt.

Today’s Seat Belts

Before 1959, seat belts in cars consisted of a single strap going across the lap. The dangerous design left most people foregoing the seat belt entirely, and the automotive world was begging for an alternative. That was when Volvo shared its newest invention with the world in 1959: the three-point seat belt. This design is so effective, it has remained unchanged until today. However, it’s only intended for passengers who are sitting upright, possibly with their arms up to hold the steering wheel, while leaving their legs free to maneuver foot pedals. The efficacy of the three-point seat belt diminishes significantly when the seat is reclined. The most obvious appeal of the self-driving car is the ability to recline and sleep without having to keep one’s eyes on the road. Therefore, it may be time to update the long-unchanged design of the seat belt as autonomous cars grow even more in popularity.

The Seat Belt Reimagined

Volvo is working on one solution to the question of safety in autonomous cars. Their answer is not a seat belt at all but closer to a seat-blanket. The new design covers the passengers upper body and legs with a blanket, which is secured loosely to the rest of the vehicle with interwoven straps. This gives the passenger enough security to prevent injury while allowing freedom of movement as well.

The Future of Autonomy, Safety, and Seat Belts

While Volvo’s design is currently undergoing safety tests, it might only be the first step in the journey to perfecting the seat belt for a new era. Most car accidents are caused by human error, and self-driving cars take the human influence out of driving. However, they still aren’t completely safe from accidents as long as they are sharing the road with human-driven cars. That’s why redesigning the seat belt is so important today. Until every car on the road is a self-driving car, passengers will have to buckle-up to stay safe during their ride, whether there’s a driver behind the wheel or not.