ŠKODA is aiming to eliminate the hassle and faff of trying to belt up at night with the innovation of illuminated smart seat belt buckles. The Czech firm has been granted a worldwide patent for the ingenious new system that has been under development at the brand’s Simply Clever labs.

The new ŠKODA smart buckles feature a clear transparent button in place of the traditional red eject button. The new button features a pair of multicolour RGB LEDs that operate in two modes. In standard mode with nobody in the seat, the LEDs glow white to show the passenger where the buckle is located at night. A ŠKODA-style crystalline pattern on the clear plastic button spreads the light to make the whole button glow. The buckles can also be programmed to have an animated welcome sequence to make them even more noticeable in dark environments.

When a passenger sits in the seat, a weight sensor in the seat base recognises the presence of a person and the LED changes to red - indicating that the occupant should put their seat belt on. This is a particularly useful feature for parents who can see immediately if their children have either forgotten to fasten their belt or have not engaged the buckle correctly. Once the buckle is engaged, the LED changes to green to signal a successful engagement and then back to white.

The smart illuminated seat belt buckle is just one of many features devised, designed and engineered in-house at ŠKODA. Every year, the brand files numerous patent applications for ideas and systems to make life easier, safer and more enjoyable for owners and drivers. In 2019, ŠKODA Auto filed 94 individual patent applications – more than any other company in the Czech Republic. The number of patent applications has been continuously increasing for years, with many already integrated into the current range and many more set to appear in future models.

The list of protected innovations also includes carpet mats made of hollow fibre fabric, which are particularly easy to clean and on which dirt is hardly visible. Another patented ŠKODA invention is a flexible cargo snake that allows boxes, crates and other objects to be positioned more securely in the boot alongside luggage.

And it’s not just creature comforts that keep the ŠKODA design team busy. The brand has also successfully patented a production line camera system that can precisely align parts of the car body before welding. The system allows the car body to be optimally positioned right from the start, making the welding process faster and more accurate. Four cameras determine the position of the car body and allow the path of the welding robots to be quickly adjusted as they operate.