Title:
Vehicular seat assembly
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention relates to a vehicular seat assembly that may be configured in four different arrangements to accommodate an adult in its first position, a youth in its second position, a toddler in its third position, and infant in its fourth position. When configured to seat an infant, the infant is retrained using a restraint system that is integral to the seat assembly, and when configured to seat a toddler, the toddler is restrained by a separate and distinct restraint system that is also integral to the seat assembly.



Inventors:
Thomas, Rodney Edward (Hayneville, AL, US)
Application Number:
11/651389
Publication Date:
05/17/2007
Filing Date:
01/09/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47D1/10; A47C1/08; A47C1/11; A47D15/00; B60N2/28; B60N2/30
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
EDELL, JOSEPH F
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WYATT, TARRANT & COMBS, LLP (Louisville, KY, US)
Claims:
1. A seat assembly for a motor vehicle, comprising: a seat; a supplemental seat; a supplemental backrest; and a backrest, said backrest defining a centrally disposed receptacle sized to receive said supplemental seat and said supplemental backrest; wherein said supplemental seat includes a first end portion and an opposing second end portion, said first end portion being pivotally interconnected to said backrest so as to be pivotable from a closed position wherein the supplemental seat is retained within the receptacle of said backrest to an open position wherein the supplemental seat rests on said seat and said supplemental backrest assembly is moveably connected to said backrest within said receptacle and is coordinated with said supplemental seat such that said supplemental backrest moves forward when said supplemental seat is moved from its closed position to its open position.

2. A seat assembly as claimed in claim 1 wherein: said supplemental seat includes a lower portion and an upper portion, the upper portion of said supplemental seat being pivotally interconnected to the lower portion of said supplemental seat so as to be pivotable from a closed position wherein said upper portion is adjacent to said lower portion and an open position wherein said upper portion extends from said lower portion at an obtuse angle.

3. A seat assembly as claimed in claim 2 wherein: said lower portion of said supplemental seat has a seating surface contoured to support an infant's legs and buttocks; and said upper portion of said supplemental seat is adapted to support the back and head of an infant sitting on the seating surface of the lower portion of said supplemental seat when the upper portion of said supplemental seat is in its open position.

4. A seat assembly as claimed in claim 2 wherein said coordination in movement between said supplemental seat and said supplemental backrest is achieved with a mechanical linkage.

5. A seat assembly as claimed in claim 2 wherein said coordination in movement between said supplemental seat and said supplemental backrest is achieved with at least one electromechanical drive mechanism to pivot said supplemental seat and to move said supplemental backrest.

6. A seat assembly as claimed in claim 2 wherein said coordination in movement between said supplemental seat and said supplemental backrest is achieved with at least one hydraulic drive mechanism to pivot said supplemental seat and to move said supplemental backrest.

7. A seat assembly as claimed in claim 2 wherein said coordination in movement between said supplemental seat and said supplemental backrest is achieved with at least one pneumatic drive mechanism to pivot said supplemental seat and to move said supplemental backrest.

8. A seat assembly as claimed in claim 1 wherein said back rest further includes a back supporting surface and a toddler armrest, said toddler armrest being pivotable from a closed position wherein a first side of said toddler armrest forms a portion of said back supporting surface to an open position and wherein said toddler armrest extends generally horizontally from said backrest and is spaced above said seat.

9. A seat assembly for a motor vehicle comprising: a seat having a front edge portion and a rear edge portion; a backrest surface, said backrest surface including a portion of a backrest that extends generally upward from the rear edge of said seat; a supplemental seat, said supplemental seat having a first end portion and a second end portion and being pivotally interconnected with said backrest wherein said supplemental seat is contained in a receptacle defined by said backrest when said supplemental seat is in a closed position and wherein said supplemental seat rests on said seat when said supplemental seat is in an open position and including a lower portion and an upper portion, the upper portion of said supplemental seat being pivotally interconnected to the lower portion of said supplemental seat so as to be pivotable from a closed position wherein said upper portion is adjacent to said lower portion and an open position wherein said upper portion extends from said lower portion at an obtuse angle; a toddler armrest, said toddler armrest being generally U-shaped and being pivotally connected to said backrest at the open end portions of the U such that said toddler armrest forms a peripheral portion of said back support surface when said toddler armrest is in its closed position and such that said toddler armrest extends generally horizontally from said backrest when it is in its open position; and a supplemental backrest, said supplemental backrest being moveably connected to said backrest within said receptacle and being coordinated with said supplemental seat such that said supplemental backrest moves forward when said supplemental seat is moved from its closed position to its open position.

10. The seat assembly of claim 9 further comprising an infant restraint system and a separate and distinct toddler restraint system.

11. The seat assembly of claim 10 wherein said toddler restraint system further comprises: a pair of retractable belts connected to at least one locking tongue and a buckle for receiving said at least one locking tongue connected to the second end portion of said supplemental seat.

12. The seat assembly of claim 10 wherein said infant restraint system further comprises: a first component of said infant restraint system attached to the upper portion of said supplemental seat and a second component of said infant restraint system attached to the lower portion of said supplemental seat wherein the first component of said infant restraint system is releasably connectable to the second component of said infant restraint system when said upper portion of said supplemental seat is in its open position such that an infant can be restrained in the supplemental seat.

13. The seat assembly of claim 12 wherein the first and second components of the infant restraint system are encapsulated within said supplemental seat when the upper portion of said supplemental seat is in its closed position.

14. The seat assembly of claim 9 wherein said supplemental seat is detachable from said backrest and removable from said motor vehicle.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims is a continuation-in-part of application Ser. No. 10/751,078 that was filed Jan. 2, 2004, which is filly incorporated herein by reference.

STATEMENT REGARDING SPONSORED RESEARCH AND/OR DEVELOPMENT

Not Applicable.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention generally relates to seats for motor vehicles, and more particularly, to a child seat assembly for use in motor vehicles.

2. General Background of the Invention

It has become increasingly desirable to place special seating apparatuses in motor vehicles to accommodate children. For instance, typically a rear-facing infant seat is utilized to sufficiently restrain an “infant,” meaning a person that is generally less than one-year-old or that weighs less than about twenty (20) pounds, enabling the infant to safely ride in a motor vehicle. Some of these conventional infant seats are at least generally immobilized, relative to an integrated, adult-accommodating seat of the motor vehicle, by extending a seat belt of the motor vehicle through at least a portion of the infant seat or by interconnecting one or more support straps of the infant seat with a frame of the motor vehicle or a combination thereof.

Once it is determined that a child has outgrown (e.g., is too tall and/or heavy to be appropriately accommodated by) an above-mentioned infant seat, the infant seat is typically removed from the motor vehicle and replaced by a toddler seat that may be utilized to sufficiently restrain a “toddler,” meaning a person that is generally older or larger than an infant but not more than forty (40) to sixty-five (65) pounds, enabling the toddler to safely ride in the motor vehicle. Like many conventional infant seats, many conventional toddler seats are at least generally immobilized, relative to the integrated, adult-accommodating seat of the motor vehicle, by extending a seat belt of the motor vehicle through at least a portion of the toddler seat or by interconnecting one or more support straps of the toddler seat with the frame of the motor vehicle or a combination thereof.

Eventually, it typically becomes desirable to remove the above-mentioned toddler seat from the motor vehicle and replace the same with a booster seat that may be utilized to sufficiently restrain a “youth,” meaning a person that is generally larger than a toddler but less than about fifty-six (56) inches tall (i.e. not tall enough to use the vehicle's standard restraint system while seated on the vehicle's primary seating surface), enabling the youth to safely ride in the motor vehicle. These booster seats may be fastened into the motor vehicle using a seat belt of the motor vehicle or one or more support straps of the booster seat; in some configurations, the booster seat simply rests on the vehicle's standard seat in order to seat the youth at an elevation sufficient to allow the youth to be restrained using the vehicle's standard safety belt.

Regardless of the particular models utilized, the designs of these special seats for children have generally required parents or guardians of a child to purchase, at a significant cost, an infant seat, a toddler seat, and a booster seat through the growth of their child. In addition, these special seats for children must be installed properly, i.e. immobile relative to the vehicle's primary seat, to provide the desired level of safety, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has estimated that as many as 80% of these seats are improperly installed.

As an alternative, some vehicle seats have been equipped with a child seat contained therein, commonly referred to as an integrated child seat. However, designs of these conventional integrated child seats generally allow them to only be useful during a short portion of a child's life, thus still requiring the purchase of one or more of an infant seat, a toddler seat, and a booster seat. For example, a motor vehicle may include an integrated booster seat, but the integrated booster seat is generally not suitable for accommodating an infant and/or toddler. Thus, the vehicle owner may still have to purchase an infant seat or a toddler seat or both to sufficiently accommodate the owner's child(ren).

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Accordingly, the objectives of the present invention are to provide a seat assembly for a motor vehicle that can sufficiently accommodate an infant, a toddler, a youth, and an adult that is cost effective and easy to use.

The invention comprises a seat assembly for a motor vehicle that includes a seat and a backrest. The backrest contains a supplemental seat, which has a first end portion that is pivotally connected to the backrest and an opposing second end portion, and a supplemental back rest, and a portion of the backrest additionally forms a pivotally deployable toddler armrest.

This basic structure allows the seat assembly to be configured in four different ways to accommodate the seating of an adult, a youth, a toddler, and an infant respectively. To accommodate an adult, the supplemental seat and supplemental backrest are stowed in the receptacle, with a back support surface of the supplemental seat providing a portion of the support for the back of an adult using the seat assembly.

To accommodate a youth, the supplemental seat is pivoted out of the receptacle in the backrest to rest on the seat, exposing a seating surface for the youth to sit on. The supplemental backrest moves forward to fill the void in the backrest and to provide support for the youth's back. This places the youth at a sufficient height to utilize the vehicle's standard restraint system.

To accommodate a toddler, the supplemental seat is pivoted out of the receptacle in the backrest and the supplemental backrest is moved forward as when the seat assembly is configured to seat a youth. In addition, the toddler armrest is deployed, which also makes a restraint system designed specifically for restraining a toddler accessible.

To accommodate an infant, the supplemental seat is pivoted out of the receptacle in the backrest to rest on the seat. An upper portion of the supplemental seat is then pivoted about the second end portion of the supplemental seat to form an obtuse angle with a lower portion of the supplemental seat, exposing an infant seating area and a restraint system designed specifically for restraining an infant.

In addition, the supplemental seat portion is preferably, but not necessarily, removable from the vehicle. This particular feature is especially valuable for parents of infants that often desire to remove an infant seat from a vehicle to transport the infant from the car. To protect the back support surface of the seat assembly and to provide additional stability when the supplemental seat is removed from the vehicle, a base may be provided that the lower portion of the supplemental seat may snap into.

Because the supplemental seat is not attached to the vehicle's seat assembly using the vehicle's safety belts, the risk of improper installation is virtually eliminated. And even when the supplemental seat is removable, the interconnection between the supplemental seat and the backrest is of a positive, locking type interconnection that is not dependent on the ability of a vehicle owner to properly tension belts that are intended to keep a child seat immobile relative to the vehicle's seat.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The accompanying drawings, which are incorporated in and constitute a part of this specification, illustrate embodiments of the invention and, together with a general description of the invention given above and the detailed description of the certain embodiments of the invention given below, serve to explain the principles of the invention.

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the seat assembly configured to seat an adult.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the seat assembly of FIG. 1 configured in a booster seat arrangement to seat a youth.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the seat assembly of FIG. 1 configured in a toddler seat arrangement to seat a youth.

FIG. 4 FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the seat assembly of FIG. 1 configured in an infant seat arrangement to seat an infant.

FIG. 5A is a sectioned, side view of the seat assembly configured as in FIG. 1.

FIG. 5B is a sectioned, side view of the seat assembly configured as in FIG. 2.

FIG. 5C is a sectioned, side view of the seat assembly configured as in FIG. 4 with the supplemental seat detached from the remainder of the seat assembly.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF CERTAIN EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

The seat assembly of the current invention is capable of seating four different types of persons. In the configuration shown in FIG. 4, seat assembly 10 is configured to seat an “infant,” meaning a person that is generally less than one-year-old or that weighs less than about twenty (20) pounds, in a rear-facing position using an “infant restraint system” that is integral to seat assembly 10. In the configuration shown in FIG. 3, seat assembly 10 is configured to seat a “toddler,” meaning a person that is generally older or larger than an infant but not more than forty (40) to sixty-five (65) pounds, in a forward-facing position using a “toddler restraint system” that is integral to seat assembly 10. In the configuration shown in FIG. 2, seat assembly 10 is configured as a booster seat to seat a “youth,” meaning a person that is generally larger than a toddler but less than about fifty-six (56) inches tall (i.e. not tall enough to use the vehicle's standard restraint system while seated on primary seating surface 13), in a forward-facing position. Finally, in the configuration shown in FIG. 1, seat assembly 10 is configured to seat an “adult,” meaning a person that is generally taller than fifty-six (56) inches (i.e. tall enough to use the vehicle's standard restraint system while seated on primary seating surface 13), in a forward-facing position.

FIGS. 1-4 illustrate a seat assembly 10 that includes seat 12, backrest 14, supplemental seat 16, toddler armrest 18, and head rest 20. First end portion 22 of supplemental seat 16 is pivotally interconnected with backrest 14 such that supplemental seat 16 is contained in receptacle 15 defined in backrest 14 when supplemental seat 16 is in its closed position as shown in FIG. 1 wherein back support surface 24 of supplemental seat 16 provides back support for an adult using seat assembly 10. When supplemental seat 16 is pivoted into its open position (as shown by arrow 17 in FIG. 2), back support surface 24 of supplemental seat 16 rests on primary seating surface 13 as shown in FIG. 2, exposing seating surface 26 of supplemental seat 16. When supplemental seat 16 is in its open position, supplemental backrest 28 moves forward to fill the void in backrest 14 as shown by arrow 27 in FIG. 2. The forward movement of supplemental backrest 28 is coordinated with the opening of supplemental seat 16 using mechanical linkage 30 (best seen in FIG. 5). Supplemental backrest 28 preferably travels on four (4) slides 29 (best seen in FIG. 5B). Alternatively, one or more electromechanical, pneumatic, or hydraulic drives can be utilized to pivot supplemental seat 16 and to move supplemental back rest 28.

FIG. 2 illustrates seat assembly 10 configured as a booster seat to seat a youth in a forward-facing position. In this configuration, supplemental seat 16 is in its open position, resting on seating surface 13, and supplemental backrest 28 is in its forward position. In this configuration, when a youth is seated on seating surface 26 of supplemental seat 16, the youth's back is supported by supplemental backrest 28. The youth is restrained using the vehicle's restraint system (not shown).

FIG. 3 illustrates seat assembly 10 configured as a toddler seat to seat a toddler in a forward-facing position. In this configuration, supplemental seat 16 is in its open position, resting on seating surface 13; supplemental backrest 28 is in its forward position; and toddler armrest 18 is pivoted into its open position as shown by arrow 21. In this configuration, when a toddler is seated on seating surface 26 of supplemental seat 16, the toddler's back is supported by supplemental backrest 28, and the toddler's torso is surrounded by toddler armrest 18. Toddler armrest 18 is preferably U-shaped with the open end portions of the U being pivotally connected to backrest 14 such that toddler armrest 18 forms a peripheral portion of back support surface 19 when toddler armrest 18 is in its closed position as shown in FIG. 1. The toddler is restrained in seat assembly 10 using a toddler restraint system that is integral to seat assembly 10. In the illustrated embodiment, the toddler restraint system comprises a pair of retractable belts 32, a pair of typical belt retractor mechanisms 33, toddler male buckle 34, and toddler female buckle 36. Retractor mechanisms 33 are mounted within backrest 14 (best seen in FIG. 5). Retractable belts 32 are routed through backrest 14 (best seen in FIG. 5) and emerge from slots 38 in backrest 14 such that retractable belts 32 and toddler male buckle are hidden by toddler armrest 18 when it is in its closed position as shown in FIGS. 1, 2, and 4. Alternatively, retractor mechanisms 33 could be mounted within, or immediately behind, seat 12 with retractable belts 32 extending up and through backrest 14. Retractable belts 32 are connected to toddler male buckle 34, whereby toddler male buckle 34 is accessible only when toddler armrest 18 is in its open position. Toddler female buckle 36 is attached to second end portion 23 of supplemental seat 16. Supplemental seat 16 can be configured with a receptacle to contain toddler female buckle 36 when supplemental seat 16 is not being used by a toddler.

FIG. 4 illustrates seat assembly 10 configured as an infant seat to seat an infant in a rear-facing position. In this configuration, supplemental seat 16 is in its open position, with lower portion 40 of supplemental seat 16 resting on seating surface 13 and upper portion 42 of supplemental seat 16 being pivoted to its open position to form an obtuse angle with lower portion 40 of supplemental seat 16; supplemental backrest 28 is in its forward position; and toddler armrest 18 is in its closed position. In this configuration, lower portion 40 and upper portion 42 of supplemental seat 16 cooperate to support the infant with the infant's buttocks and legs being supported by infant buttock supporting surface 50 of lower portion 40 and the infant's back, neck, and head being supported by infant back supporting surface 52 of upper portion 42. The infant is restrained in supplemental seat 16 using an infant restraint system that is integral to supplemental seat assembly 16. In the illustrated embodiment, the infant restraint system comprises a pair of infant restraint belts 44, which are attached to upper portion 42 of supplemental seat 16 at their first ends 44a; infant male buckle 46, which is attached to the second ends 44b of infant restraint belts 44; and infant female buckle 48, which is attached to lower portion 40 of supplemental seat 16. The components of the infant restraint system may additionally be encapsulated by lower portion 40 and upper portion 42 of supplemental seat 16 when upper portion 42 is in its closed position.

FIGS. 5A, 5B, and 5C are sectioned side views of seat assembly 10 to disclose an embodiment of seat assembly 10 utilizing mechanical linkage 30 to coordinate the movement of supplemental seat 16 and supplemental backrest 28. These figures additionally show the routing of retractable belts 32 through backrest 14.

FIG. 5C additionally illustrates that supplemental seat 16 may be detached from seat assembly 10 and removed from the vehicle as demonstrated by arrow 59. This capability is particularly advantageous when supplemental seat 16 is configured as an infant seat as shown in FIG. 5C. Using infant seat carrying handle 54, supplemental seat 16 can easily be transported, even when an infant is restrained in supplemental seat 16 with the infant restraint system. To protect back support surface 24 of supplemental seat 16 when supplemental seat 16 is removed from the vehicle, base 56 may be provided that lower portion 40 of supplemental seat 16 can be snapped into as indicated by arrow 60. Bottom surface 58 of base 56 preferably comprises a non-skid material such as rubber to promote the stability supplemental seat 16 when it detached from backrest 14.

Referring again to FIG. 3, toddler armrest 18 may further define one or more receptacles 62 that are accessible when toddler armrest 18 is in its open position. Receptacle 62 in FIG. 3 is shown as being cylindrical to accept a cup, but receptacles 62 can be of a variety of sizes and shapes.

In one embodiment of seat assembly 10, head rest 20 can be adjusted downward to provide support for a toddler's head when toddler armrest 18 is in its open position. In an alternate embodiment, head rest 20 is attached to toddler armrest 18 and adjustable so that a toddler may lay its head on said headrest when the toddler armrest is in its open position.

While the above describes the illustrated embodiments of the invention, those skilled in the art may appreciate that certain modifications may be made to the apparatus and methodology herein disclosed without departing from the scope and spirit of the invention. Thus, it should be understood that the invention may be adapted to numerous rearrangements, modifications, and alterations and that all such are intended to be within the scope of the appended claims.