How WAYB designs and tests the Pico™ travel car seat for safety
CEO Tio Jung and his son greet Officer Marquez of the Pasadena Police, a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician
Solving a Parent’s Dilemma
When WAYB Co-Founder and CEO Tio Jung was traveling for business, he always saw parents lugging large, heavy car seats through the airport. “I said to my father, there must be a better way,” recalls Tio. “We had this idea for a travel car seat, the WAYB Pico.”
WAYB CEO Tio Jung and his father (and co-founder) I.S. Jung.
Tio and his father, I.S. Jung, decided to create a new company in California with their friend Michael Crooke. “My family has been making high-end outdoor gear for years, and we wanted to bring that expertise to the baby industry,” explains Tio. “We use mostly aluminum, which is super light and strong.” In March 2017, WAYB was born.
The Pico travel car seat is under eight pounds and very compact, thanks to its aluminum frame. According to WAYB lead designer Kurtis Sakai, “Airplanes and spacecraft use [aluminum] because it’s so durable without adding weight. It’s the backbone of what makes this product safe and easy to travel with, and it’s an element of beauty and quality.”
The WAYB team knew the Pico would solve a problem for families traveling with a 2-to-5-year-old. “We hear from parents that there have been times the seat didn’t show up at baggage claim, or the rental car company ran out,” explains WAYB COO Tracy Liu. “Some parents get stuck without a seat, or just risk it for a short Lyft ride.” As a forward-facing seat with a five-point harness, the WAYB Pico helps families travel safer when their kids are not big enough for a booster. And since it’s light enough to easily bring on the plane, parents don’t have to worry about it getting beat up or going missing during travel.
WAYB CEO Tio Jung, COO Tracy Liu, and Innovation Discovery Chief Jeff Lockie
Designing and Testing for Safety
Tio and the WAYB team have focused on safety at every step while developing the Pico travel car seat. Every material is individually tested for strength and durability before being considered for the Pico. A team of engineers creates multiple Pico samples and each prototype is tested to U.S. safety standards for cars and planes. “Safety really is the most important thing,” says Jeff Lockie, WAYB’s Innovation Discovery Chief. “We don’t just pass, we want to use each test to make the next version even better.”
NHTSA, FAA, MGA, and CPST are some of the acronyms that help WAYB make a car seat that passes safety standards for cars and planes.
Prepping a WAYB Pico prototype for a safety test to U.S. standards.
NHTSA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, sets the standards for car seats sold in the U.S., while the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulates which car seats are approved for use inside a plane. A leading testing facility, MGA, tests every round of Pico prototypes. The WAYB team travels from California and the engineering teams make the journey from South Korea and the Philippines to view the tests. Any small change in size, material, or function can change how a car seat performs in a crash simulation, so WAYB invests in multiple rounds of testing to find out which designs perform best. A year into the design process, the team discovered a crucial fact about the Pico’s frame: by using 7000-series aluminum in key sections of the frame, the Pico is able to absorb energy without bulky foams which can degrade or release harmful gasses. This helped further slim the Pico’s design and reduce its environmental footprint.
While Pico passes the safety standards set by the U.S. federal government, in the real world, parents and caregivers have to be able to use a car seat correctly for it to be as safe as possible. A Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) or “car seat tech,” is someone who has been specially trained to help caregivers properly install their car seat. A shocking 95% of parents are incorrectly using car seats, and a CPST can catch dangerous mistakes. Techs will often hold free checkup events, and many will even meet with you personally.
[Related: Common car seat mistakes and how to find a tech near you]
WAYB reached out to two dozen CPSTs in Southern California to invite techs to WAYB’s South Pasadena office. Techs came from a variety of organizations, such as Car Seats for the Littles, SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A., the Pasadena Police Department, and Safe Kids Los Angeles East to share their experiences, what they look for in a seat, and offer feedback on Pico prototypes (it’s important to note that techs were not asked to endorse the Pico, just to offer their feedback to help improve it. The organizations listed have not been asked for, nor specifically given, an endorsement on the Pico).
CPST Lani Harrison tests the WAYB Pico to offer feedback on installation
“We are really grateful to the techs who came to visit us and helped us make the Pico better,” says Tio. “They have the experience in the field to know not just what makes a seat safer, but also makes it easier for parents to install it correctly.”
After receiving feedback from the CPSTs, WAYB made updates to the Pico, and plans to keep working with techs on future products and rounds of the Pico. Some of the CPSTs’ comments resulted in product changes, and other feedback helps the WAYB team better communicate to customers. For example, techs shared that most car seats they see still don’t have the top tether installed, and asked that it be called out as clearly as possible. Other comments had to do with Pico’s size. While the Pico is meant to be compact, CPSTs thought it might be too small.
CPST Mellisa Ramirez checks out the fit and top tether installation on the WAYB Pico
“We heard from techs that because the shoulder straps can’t be raised on this model of the Pico, they didn’t like that we said it could be used to age six, since in a forward-facing car seat the straps must be coming from above the shoulders for safety,” says Jeff. “The techs were worried it wasn’t tall enough for a six-year-old’s torso. Even though that’s how it was tested in a facility, when we heard that feedback we knew the right thing was to lower the age. Really it’s about fit, not age, but we know that parents will want a quick age reference.”
CPST Officer Marquez of the Pasadena Police tests the WAYB Pico travel car seat
Sarah Diaz, WAYB’s EVP of Sales, elaborates. “When parents are deciding whether to buy a Pico, it could hurt sales that we’re saying ages two to five instead of two to six. But it was a no-brainer. The techs gave us valuable feedback that it looked small for age six so we just said, ‘Ok, let’s make the change.’ We also know that there are other portable solutions like boosters for kids over five, so we feel good about Pico filling a gap when a kid turns two and a family wants to travel.”
New Techs on the Block
Seeing the impact of working with techs locally and at a national CPST conference, Kidz in Motion, the WAYB team signed up for CPST training. “It’s something we were always going to have our Customer Experience Specialists do,” explains Kritika Misra, WAYB’s Marketing Manager, “but we saw how important it is for people from every department to get the training. It informs product design, sales, marketing, everything. We can’t wait to be CPSTs and help our customers travel safer.”
Stay tuned to the blog for a future post about our training experience, and sign up for our email list to find out when we’ll hold car seat safety checks at the WAYB office in South Pasadena.