Inflatable Car Buddy
Inflatable dolls now have another purpose besides being novelty entertainment at bachelor parties. Did you know you can take them along as a passenger in your car―not as an inflatable date, but as a pneumatic chaperone? With the latest concept in driver safety, you don't even need to huff and puff to fill your plastic partner with air.
Dangerous or unfamiliar neighborhoods or dark, remote roads might make any driver nervous about being alone. Recently Sheilas' Wheels, an insurance company in the United Kingdom that caters to female drivers, proposed an inflatable male dummy that could be stored in the glove compartment and inflated using power from the cigarette lighter to deter would-be criminals from targeting a solo female.
Sheilas' Wheels created a prototype to show drivers how it might work. For a little extra safety here in the States, drivers could store an already-inflated novelty dummy in the trunk, and seatbelt it into the passenger seat before heading into possibly dangerous territory. However, bear in mind that the British prototype is more realistic than any inflatable doll you'll find in a U.S. novelty store. Unless it's very dark or you're driving very fast, don't expect anyone to be fooled by an Inflate-A-Date.
Reaction to PR about the concept has been mixed. Many readers of the press releases question the value of the idea as more than a gimmick. More than a few bloggers commented that they would be more scared of the dummy than of anyone outside their car. And some see all the promotion around this not-for-sale item as no more than a publicity stunt.
Having said that, the U.K. insurance company isn't the only party to conceive of a dummy passenger as a deterrent to crime against lone drivers. It's just one of the only ones we know of to propose the convenience of a self-inflatable dummy that fits in your glove compartment when not in use. Solid dummies and mannequins have ridden in passenger seats perhaps almost as long as there have been carpool lanes, often with expensive and humiliating results. But driving with a dummy isn't always illegal.
Way back in 1995, Taiwanese inventor Hsin-Hsin Lo obtained a patent for a passenger-seat dummy. But rather than being an unrealistic―and possibly comical―blow-up doll, this plastic unit (wearing rubber skin, clothes, and a wig) would actually contain animatronic parts to allow the head to turn from side to side. The idea was to mimic the motion of the passenger turning to talk to the driver from time to time. Though not as discreet as a companion that you can cram into your glove compartment when you have a real passenger, Lo's patent might be more likely to fool a would-be attacker.
Alas, like the Buddy on Demand, this movable mannequin was never put on the market. Until either product makes it to store shelves, those driving alone will have to continue to be vigilant―and try to stay out of harm's way.
Other Topics in This Section
- Dog Safety
- GPS Systems
- Gift Ideas for Gadget Lovers
- How To Shop for Tires
- What About Side Air Bags
- Lane Departure Warnings
- How To Buy a Child Safety Seat
- How To Install a Child Safety Seat
- Do You Need GPS?
- Do You Need a Radar Detector?
- How Safe Are Air Bags?
- Remote Start
- The Advantages of Bluetooth
- Vehicle Hard Drives
- iPod Technology
- Parking Assist Systems
- Parking Sensors and Cameras
- Photo Radar Camera Detectors
- The Evolution of Key Fobs
- In-Car E-mail
- Cup Holders That Heat and Cool
- Portable DVD Players
- Inflatable Car Buddy
- Bicycle and Ski Racks
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