Title:
Rotatable automotive seat apparatus
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An automobile/vehicle passenger car seat configured for rotation about a pivot point, thereby allowing a seat occupant such as a child to be more easily buckled within the car seat by a parent, this car seat then configured for rotation back to a forward facing position. The purpose of this Abstract is to enable the public, and especially the scientists, engineers, and practitioners in the art who are not familiar with patent or legal terms or phraseology, to determine quickly from a cursory inspection, the nature and essence of the technical disclosure of the application. This Abstract is neither intended to define the invention, which is measured by the claims, nor is it intended to be limiting as to the scope of the invention in any way.



Inventors:
Gerhardt, Ruben Michael (Burley, ID, US)
Application Number:
11/333974
Publication Date:
07/19/2007
Filing Date:
01/17/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47C1/00
View Patent Images:
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20080136232HEAD REST AND HARNESS ADJUSTMENT FOR CHILD CAR SEATJune, 2008Hutchinson et al.
20030001423Seat/bed pad structureJanuary, 2003Lai
20020167211Massage chairNovember, 2002Nishi Yama



Primary Examiner:
BARFIELD, ANTHONY DERRELL
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SHAVER & SWANSON, LLP (BOISE, ID, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A seat assembly for use in a vehicle having a floor portion, said seat configured for rotation from a forward facing position to a side facing loading position, said seat assembly comprising: a seat portion, said seat portion having a body, said body having a lower portion adjacent to said vehicle floor portion, said lower portion for cooperating with a mechanical seat rotator, said seat body pivotally connected to said vehicle floor portion through use of a pivot portion, said lower portion comprising a geared track; a pivot portion for interconnecting the seat portion with the vehicle's floor portion; and a mechanical seat rotator for mechanically rotating said seat at said pivot portion, said rotator is configured for rotating said seat from a forward facing position to a side facing loading position, said rotator powered by a motor; wherein said motor is configured for selectively driving in a first direction whereby said geared track is advanced and said seat is rotated into its side facing loading position; and wherein said motor is configured for selectively driving in a second direction whereby said geared track is withdrawn and said seat is rotated into its forward facing position.

2. The seat assembly of claim 1, wherein said rotator comprising a motor.

3. The seat assembly of claim 2, wherein motor is configured for driving at least one gear, said gear configured for cooperation with the seat portion's geared track for advancing said track and thereby causing rotation of said seat portion.

4. The seat assembly of claim 3, wherein said lower portion comprises a geared track for cooperating with said mechanical seat rotator.

5. The seat assembly of claim 1, further comprising a control switch for controlling the operation of said motor.

6. The seat assembly of claim 1, further comprising a stop for stopping rotation of said seat portion at a predetermined degree of rotation.

7. The seat assembly of claim 1, wherein said vehicle is prevented from moving when said seat portion is not in its forward facing position.

8. A seat assembly for use in a vehicle having a floor portion, said seat configured for rotation from a forward facing position to a side facing loading position, said seat assembly comprising: a seat portion, said seat portion having a body, said body having a lower portion adjacent to said vehicle floor portion, said lower portion comprising a geared track for cooperating with a mechanical seat rotator, said seat body pivotally connected to said vehicle floor portion through use of a pivot portion; a pivot portion for rotationally interconnecting said seat portion with the vehicle's floor portion; and a mechanical seat rotator for mechanically rotating said seat at said pivot portion, said rotator configured for rotating said seat from a forward facing position to a side facing loading position, said rotator comprising a motor, said motor configured for driving at least one gear, said gear configured for cooperation with the seat portion's geared track for advancing said track and thereby causing rotation of said seat portion; wherein said motor is configured for selectively driving in a first direction whereby said geared track is advanced and said seat is rotated into its side facing loading position; and wherein said motor is configured for selectively driving in a second direction whereby said geared track is withdrawn and said seat is rotated into its forward facing position.

9. The seat assembly of claim 8, further comprising a control switch for controlling the operation of said motor.

10. The seat assembly of claim 10, further comprising a stop for stopping rotation of said seat portion at a predetermined degree of rotation.

11. The seat assembly of claim 10, wherein said vehicle is prevented from moving when said seat portion is not in its forward facing position.

12. A seat assembly for use in a vehicle having a floor portion, said seat assembly configured for rotation from a forward facing position to a side facing loading position, said seat assembly comprising: a seat portion, said seat portion having a body, said body having a lower portion adjacent to said vehicle floor portion; a seat rotation device for pivotally connecting said seat portion with said floor portion, said seat rotation device comprising a geared track for cooperating with a mechanical seat rotator; a mechanical seat rotator for mechanically rotating said seat at said pivotal connection, said rotator configured for rotating said seat from a forward facing position to a side facing loading position, said rotator comprising a motor, said motor configured for driving at least one gear, said gear configured for cooperation with the seat portion's geared track for advancing said track and thereby causing rotation of said seat portion; and wherein said motor is configured for selectively driving in a first direction whereby said geared track is advanced and said seat is rotated into its side facing loading position; and wherein said motor is configured for selectively driving in a second direction whereby said geared track is withdrawn and said seat is rotated into its forward facing position.

13. The seat assembly of claim 12, further comprising a control switch for controlling the operation of said motor.

14. The seat assembly of claim 12, further comprising a stop for stopping rotation of said seat portion at a predetermined degree of rotation.

15. The seat assembly of claim 12, wherein said vehicle is prevented from moving when said seat portion is not in its forward facing position.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates to generally automobile technologies, more specifically devices for allowing an automobile passenger seat to rotate so as to facilitate the buckling/unbuckling of children into car seats and/or child safety seats.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

For the safety of children, federal law mandates that children be appropriately restrained in suitable car seats and/or booster seats within the back seats of automobiles. As such, it is frequent for parents and other people transporting children to use such car seats and booster seats within their vehicles.

One major issue that parents face when buckling a child into such a car seat is the fact that the car seat faces forward and the parent is required to crawl within the vehicle and/or lean into the vehicle at an awkward angle in order to properly buckle the child into the car seat. If the parent doing such activities is not physically strong, such a process can often be physically challenging and/or frustrating. Even for individuals which have the physical strength to lift the child into the car seat at the strange angle and lean in to buckle the child, such individuals tend to find the process frustrating.

While throughout the years, child car seats have become increasingly easier to install and use, none of the known child safety seats on the market and/or car seats on the market are known to pivot from a forward facing position to a side facing position so as to allow a parent or other individual to more easily and properly load the child into the car seat. Embodiments of the present invention solve this need.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

One embodiment of the present invention comprises a seat assembly for use in a vehicle. Such a vehicle having a floor portion. The seat being configured for rotation from a forward facing position to a side facing (loading) position. The seat assembly having a seat portion, a pivot portion, a mechanical seat rotator and a center stability track.

The seat portion having a body/frame, this frame having a lower portion located generally adjacent to the vehicle floor portion. This lower portion comprising a geared track configured for cooperating with the mechanical seat rotator for rotating the seat from its forward facing position to its side facing (loading) position. The seat body is further pivotally connected to the vehicle floor portion through use of the pivot portion. This pivot portion for interconnecting the seat portion with the vehicle's floor portion.

The mechanical seat rotator is configured for mechanically rotating the seat at the pivot portion. The rotator is configured for rotating the seat from its forward facing position to its side facing (loading) position. In one such embodiment, the rotator comprises a motor configured for driving at least one gear, this gear configured for cooperation with the seat portion's geared track thereby advancing the track in a generally circular fashion thus causing the rotation of the seat portion.

Such a motor is preferably configured for selectively driving in a first direction whereby the gear track is advanced and the seat is rotated into its side facing (loading) position. The motor also being configured for selectively driving in a second (opposite) direction whereby the gear track is withdrawn and the seat is rotated into its forward facing position. Such an embodiment with thus further includes a control switch or other manner of controlling the operation of the motor and/or for selecting the direction in which the motor travels, whether that be the first direction or the second direction.

It is likewise preferred that the present invention be configured with a stop(s) or other apparatuses for stopping the rotation of the seat portion at a pre-determined degree of rotation (forward facing, side-facing, etc). The inventor of the present invention further envisions that the automobile will be locked out from moving and/or starting when the seat portion is not in its forward facing position. Likewise, the present invention is preferably configured for not rotating when the car is moving or other factors are present (the side door is closed, etc.).

Also provided is a center stability track adjacent to a pivot portion. The center stability track comprising an inner track, a bushing and an outer track. The center stability track for stabilizing the seat portion as it rotates.

Still other features and advantages of the present invention will become readily apparent to those skilled in this art from the following detailed description describing only the preferred embodiment of the invention, simply by way of illustration of the best mode contemplated by carrying out my invention. As will be realized, the invention is capable of modification in various obvious respects all without departing from the invention. Accordingly, the drawings and description of the preferred embodiment are to be regarded as illustrative in nature, and not as restrictive in nature.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 shows a partial perspective environmental view of one embodiment of the present invention shown in its forward facing position.

FIG. 2 shows a second perspective view of the embodiment of FIG. 1 showing the seat portion in its side facing loading position.

FIG. 3 shows a front side view of a second embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 4 shows a top view of a third embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 5 shows a side view along the lines denoted in FIG. 4 of the embodiment of FIG. 4.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

While the invention is susceptible of various modifications and alternative constructions, certain illustrated embodiments thereof have been shown in the drawings and will be described below in detail. It should be understood, however, that there is no intention to limit the invention to the specific form disclosed, but, on the contrary, the invention is to cover all modifications, alternative constructions, and equivalents falling within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined in the claims.

Referring initially to FIGS. 1 and 2, shown is one embodiment of the present invention. The present invention is an improved car seat portion 20 for a vehicle 2 which, using a seat rotation device 28, allows the car seat portion 20 to be rotated from a forward facing position (as shown in FIG. 1) to a side facing loading position as shown in FIG. 2. The vehicle 2 having a floor portion 4 below the seat assembly 10.

In these figures, the front passenger seat shows an unmodified assembly, where the seat has a lower portion 24 which connects with the base 14 which is attached to the vehicle's floor portion 4. Such an arrangement is typical for vehicle seats and through such connection the typical utility of forward and rearward sliding are often provided.

In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1-2, the right rear passenger seat has been modified by placing the invented seat rotation device 28 in between the seat's existing base 14 and lower portion 24. In such an arrangement, the base 14 is uncoupled from the lower portion 24, the base 14 is then attached to a vehicle attaching portion 32 which is pivotally connected via a pivot portion (not shown) to a seat attaching portion 30, this seat attaching portion 30 being attached to the base 14. While such drawings show a retrofit option, it is likewise envisioned that the present invention could be built within vehicles.

One benefit of the present invention is for allowing a child's car seat buckled appropriately into a vehicle's passenger seat to be rotated outwards, facing the door, for allowing the child to be more easily buckled into the car seat. Upon the child being buckled into the car seat, the car seat assembly would then be rotated back into a forward facing position as necessary for transit.

Referring now to FIGS. 3, 4 and 5, shown are second and third embodiments of the present invention. In these figures, FIG. 3 shows a front view of a second embodiment as installed on a seat assembly, FIG. 4. shows a top down view of a third embodiment, and FIG. 5 shows the mechanical gear portion of the third embodiment.

In FIG. 3, shown is the present invention (seat rotation device 28) which is sandwiched between the lower portion 24 of the seat assembly 20 and the base 14 of the seat which itself attaches to the floor portion 4 of the vehicle in the standard manner. The seat rotation device 28 comprising a seat attaching portion 30 which is attached to a vehicle attaching portion 32 through use of a pivot portion 60. The lower portion 24 of the seat assembly 20 then attaching to the seat attaching portion 30 (in the Figure via bolts or other fasteners) and the base 14 attaches to the vehicle attachment portion 32. As such, the functionality of the seat portion 20 being able to rotate via the pivot portion 60 relative to the floor portion 4 is created, and the seats pre-existing functions (ability to slide forward, reverse, etc.) is likewise preserved (preferably).

FIG. 4 shows a top view of one embodiment of a seat rotation device 28 and mechanical seat rotator 40. Being a top view, the seat attachment portion 30 is visible, whereas the vehicle attaching portion (not shown) which would be located there-below would be hidden from view (at least for the purposes of this Figure). In this embodiment, the inside portion of the seat attaching portion 30 is geared, as referred to in the drawing as a geared track 26.

While the geared track 26 shown in FIG. 4 shows a generally circular track, obviously a smaller degree of rotation is necessary to allow the seats to be rotated the preferred generally 90 degrees. Thus, generally a quarter of the track shown in FIG. 4 (or other portion thereof) could be used to accomplish the present invention. By showing a fully circular geared track, the present invention is not intended as being limited to such a configuration.

FIG. 5 shows a side view of one embodiment of a gear assembly 50 of the present invention. This gear assembly can likewise be seen in FIG. 4. A portion of the geared track 26 of the seat attaching portion 30 can likewise be seen in FIG. 5. This geared track 26 is configured for cooperation with at least one gear 52 of the gear assembly 50. The gear 52 configured for rotation about a fixed axis.

Through the gear's 52 cooperation with the geared track 26 of the seat attaching portion 30, as the gear rotates, the seat attaching portion 30 is caused to pivot about the pivot portion 60 thereby resulting in rotation of the seat attaching portion 30 relative to the vehicle attaching portion 32. Rotation of the gear 52 in the opposite direction would likewise cause rotation of the seat attaching portion 30 in an opposite direction. Thus, rotation of the gear 52 in a first direction causes the gear track 26 to advance, whereas rotation of the gear 52 in the opposite direction causes the geared track 26 to retract.

The gear 52 being turned through use of a motor 42. It is preferred that a gear assembly 50 (which may or may not include the gear 52 itself) be used to communicate rotation of the motor 42 shaft into advancement or retraction of the geared track 26 through use of the gear 52. This entire assembly referred to herein as the mechanical seat rotator 40. Any number of gears, for instance in the embodiment shown, a pair of helical gear cooperate to rotate a pair of beveled gears which in turn rotate the gear 52. Obviously, there are other types of gears including but not limited to worn gears, etc., could be used. Further, optionally the motor 42 itself could directly drive the gear 52.

The pivot portion 60 comprising a pair of attachments for rotationally attaching the seat attaching portion to the vehicle attaching portion. One example of a pivot portion would include at least one bearing assembly.

It is preferred that the mechanical seat rotator 40 be controlled by any number of ways, including, but not limited to, switches located adjacent to the child's seat, switches located in the driver's compartment of the present invention, wireless key chain fobs, levers or switches able to be manipulated by the person loading the child, etc. It is further preferred that the present invention cooperate with the ignition system of the vehicle so as to lock out operation of the vehicle unless the passenger seat is in its forward facing position.

It is also envisioned that a stop or other manner of controlling the rotation of the seat portion to a predetermined degree of rotation be provided, whether that be through mechanical apparatus, electrical apparatus, or other apparatuses.

One example embodiment of the present invention can be described as follows. The present invention being a rotatable seat assembly for use in a vehicle. Such a vehicle having a floor portion. The seat assembly being configured for rotation from a forward facing position to a side facing loading position. The seat assembly comprising a seat portion, a pivot portion and a mechanical seat rotator.

The seat portion having a body having a lower portion which, in use, is located adjacent to the vehicle's floor portion. This lower portion internally has a geared track which is configured for cooperating with a mechanical seat rotator. The seat body pivotally connects to the vehicle's floor portion through use of a pivot portion. This pivot portion interconnects the seat portion with the vehicle's floor portion.

The mechanical seat rotator is used to mechanically rotate the seat at its connection with the pivot portion. This mechanical seat rotator being configured for rotating the seat from a forward facing position to a side facing loading position where the seat faces out the side door. In this embodiment, the rotator uses an electrical motor driving at least one gear configured for intermeshing with the seat portion's geared track. The rotation of this gear causing the advancement and/or retraction of the track relative to the gear depending on the direction the gear is rotated. This advancement/retraction resulting in rotation of the seat portion relative to the floor. The provision of a control apparatus, for controlling the operation of the motor and thus the present invention, is likewise envisioned.

In use, a user would open the passenger door, use the control apparatus to cause the seat to rotate from its forward facing position to its side facing position, the seat stopping when it reaches its side facing position. The user would then load/unload a child into the seat and then cause the seat to be rotated back to its forward facing position. The door of the vehicle could then be shut. The seat may need to, in the standard fashion, first be slid forward or backwards before rotation takes place.

A second example embodiment of the present invention comprising a modification part which can be installed by a user or technician. The device coming ready for installation, having holes or other manners of attachment there-through aligned with the hardware the factory installed seat assembly uses for attachment to the floor portion. The user would then remove the bolts holding the seat portion to the base portion (which extends from or attaches to the floor portion). Thusly, the seat portion could be removed from the vehicle. The seat rotation device would then be installed on the seat (or the vehicle), likely through use of bolting the seat rotation device to the holes within the seat lower portion that were used for bolting the seat lower portion to the floor portion originally. Then, the seat portion with attached seat rotation device would be placed back into the vehicle and the vehicle attaching portion of the seat rotation device would be attached (likely through use of bolts) to the base as the lower portion formerly was. Thus, the seat is reinstalled back into the vehicle securely with the seat rotation device now installed between the lower portion and the base. Upon installation of the appropriate electrical connections, the seat is now configure for rotation. It is preferred that the seat's original functionality (ability to slide forward, fold down upon itseelf, etc. be not disturbed, and in installation of this embodiment, that functionality doesn't change.

While there is shown and described the present preferred embodiment of the invention, it is to be distinctly understood that this invention is not limited thereto but may be varuously embodied to practice within the scope of the following claims. From the foregoing description, it will be apparent that various changes may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the following claims.