Category Archives: Interior
Vehicle safety has come a long way since 1959. Nevertheless, that year was a major milestone in automotive history. In that year, the three-point seatbelt was improved upon by Nils Bohlin, a former SAAB aircraft engineer who spent his early career designing ejection seats (1). After Volvo CEO Gunnar Engelau lost a relative in a car crash, he hired Bohlin as Volvo’s first Chief Safety Engineer.
Contrary to popular belief, Volvo and Bohlin did not invent the first safety belt in a car. The first seat belts typically consisted of a belt strapped across the waist and two Americans, Roger Griswold and Hugh De Haven, patented the first three-point seatbelt in 1951 (2) though the buckle rested in the middle of the occupants abdomen causing severe internal injuries during high-speed collisions. Bohlin greatly improved upon the seat belt by moving the buckle to a safer location, anchoring the belt below the occupant’s waist and simplifying the process of using the seatbelt with its one-handed design. It has been estimated that Bohlin’s seat belt has saved a million lives in its roughly 50 year history. During that time, the standard car seat belt has remained fundamentally unchanged.
The same cannot be said for the automotive seat itself. It has undergone many changes in the past 50 years from the addition of headrests to aid in whiplash protection, lumbar support adjustment, built-in airbags to protect the occupant in a side-impact collision, to the materials used in the seat’s construction to reduce weight and increase driver comfort. A fatigued driver is not a safe driver.
Ford has recently taken the safety aspects of automotive seating a step further with its ECG seat for-in car heart monitoring. Drivers who suffer from heart disease have a 23 percent greater risk of being involved in an accident (3). Initial testing is very promising, showing a 95 percent accuracy during 98 percent of the time the driver spent in the seat. Some emergency medical services already have the capability to send data wirelessly from ambulance to hospital and it is possible that the car seat may soon be able to do the same. It’s an exciting innovation to look out for.
IQPC is hosting its 8th International Conference on Innovative Seating in Bonn, Germany from the 25th – 28th of February, 2013.
To learn more about Ford’s ECG Seat and for free access to a number of other interesting articles on automotive seating, visit our download center.
You can have my compact disc player when you pry it out of my car’s cold, dead center console.
There has been a recent stretch of news about the pending demise of the CD player in vehicles. The Consumer Electronics Show was all about streaming audio and Internet radio. And General Motors has announced the 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS will not offer a CD player.
This fills me with fear.
I am not a Luddite. I love driving cars with MP3 hookups so I can plug in my iPod and listen to my own tunes. Even more, I love cars with Pandora, so I can have my own personal disc jockey in the car.
But therein lies a problem.
Streaming audio is low-fi. The fidelity of satellite radio is gruesome. The default setting for iPod downloads is grainy. You get to hear the music you want, but your ears don’t get the proper reproduction.
Conversely, CD audio provides the highest fidelity for listening to music available to the general public.
That makes keeping CD players in place a different argument from when automakers began phasing out in-dash cassette players — and before that eight-track players. Heck, there are black-and-white photos of cars that actually had turntables in the dashboard.
But all of those audio formats had degradation issues. Record albums skipped and scratched. Cassette and eight-track tape wore out and was of low-quality material.
CDs, on the other ear, provide shimmering sound, bright highs, defined bass and punchy midrange that doesn’t drown out conversation. With CDs, you have the audio clarity to tell what type of tea Andrea Bocelli drank before launching into “Nessun Dorma.”
With CDs, you can understand why Neil Peart is the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll drummer, and Ana Vidovic is the current queen of classical guitar.
But with the standard 128 kbps download of most digital audio players–and the even-lower resolution of streaming audio–the aural experience turns into a muddy, chalky mess. You can’t tell the brilliance of Nada Surf from the mediocrity of Nickelback, and that’s a bad thing.
It would be easy enough to say this development is the natural evolution in car audio. But unlike past evolutions, CDs are not being replaced by a higher-quality audio product. Just a more convenient one.
To people who appreciate music, this is a step back. It is a travesty for a vehicle to offer high-end speaker systems from suppliers such as Mark Levinson or Bowers & Wilkins, then to cripple them with low-grade music reproduction equipment.
Save the CD players!
Seating is one of the areas in which design and innovation is advancing rapidly in the automotive sector. With EC regulations dictating that the overall mass of vehicles should be reduced to aid the reduction in carbon emissions and with more demands from consumers for extra comfort, security and safety, manufacturers are faced with the task of marrying weight reduction with improved driver safety. There are a variety of ways in which seat manufacturers are innovating and designing new seating concepts to achieve these aims, from developing new materials, to introducing better functionality for comfort and safety.
Many manufacturers are embracing new technology and developing new designs for seating as they strive to reduce weight and improve functionality. The use of thermoplastics and CFRP’s (Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastics) are becoming more and more commonplace, and several seat manufacturers are investing in the development of the production of one-piece seat structures which are much lighter than conventional steel structures, while retaining or improving upon strength.
Another part of the seat which is subject to new research and development is the padding and cushioning. Typically in seat manufacture the cushioning has been made up of PU foam, but due to the weight this material adds to the seat, manufacturers are looking to newer materials to afford the same level of comfort and safety while reducing weight. Foams derived from renewable sources and from recyclable materials are being developed, while some chemical firms are developing ‘plastic’ polypropylene foams which offer the same level of support as conventional foams.
Seating design is a complex process which often requires detailed communication between auto manufacturers, seating suppliers and components manufacturers (1). With the improvement in technology and computing, comes the ability for designers to create much more complex models and designs for manufacturers to work with. One company which facilitates this process is Vistagy, with their Seat Design Environment (SDE) software. The industry-specific software is fully integrated into commercial CAD systems, and gives engineers the functionality to create detailed 3D digital models of their seats and internal components. Vistagy says that SDE is the first ever seat design software which addresses the entire seat manufacturing process.
The software enables designers to create a complete product definition, digitally defining the seat style and the soft-goods requirements such as trim cover surfaces and sew lines. It can assess the design production and highlight any potential issues, such as wrinkling of seat covers, all without the need for a prototype. It is able to generate flat patterns which can be edited with 2D software before being imported back into the 3D model, without formatting problems. Designers are able to use the software to create engineering drawings and data, detailed sewing instructions, and parts lists. The software can also give an accurate report on the parts and costs involved in any particular design; essential when considering the cost-effectiveness of a design.
Interested in reading more about advancing design & driver safety?
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European regulations for the reduction of CO2 emissions from passenger cars and light commercial vehicles have had a major impact on weight reduction, as manufacturers look to meet stringent targets by improving efficiency in every component of their vehicles. This is the driving force behind the need to reduce the weight of seating in automobiles; as seating can account for 5-10% of the weight of a vehicle. It is a complex issue for manufacturers and OEM’s alike, as any weight reduction must be balanced against driver comfort, ergonomics and safety; none of which must be compromised to achieve lower overall weight.
Why the trend towards weight reduction?
The EU directive [EC] No. 443/2009 established in 2009, legislated that passenger cars should reach CO2 emission targets of 130g CO2/km by 2015 and 95g CO2/km by 2020 (1). Additional regulations for light commercial vehicles introduced in 2011, require that they do not exceed emissions of 175g CO2/km by 2017, and 147g CO2 by 2020. In practice, this works by giving each manufacturer a target based on the overall mass of new cars registered in a given year; with the values set in such a way that heavier cars will require more reduction than lighter cars. Although the exact parameters for 2020 targets are still under some discussion, the current indexing of CO2 emissions against vehicle mass means that one way for manufacturers to work towards the targets is by reducing the weight of their vehicles.
Automotive seating has historically been manufactured from metal and polyurethane (PU) foams. With weight reduction at the forefront of the seating sector, many OEM’s are looking to newer technologies and different materials to reduce weight. Safety and comfort have always been the prominent drivers for seating, and rather than being in conflict with the requirements for reduced weight, a holistic approach must be taken to reconcile these important factors with lower cost and less weight. It has now become essential for car makers to consider the seating system as a whole, rather than viewing each individual segment and component separately.
>> Conference Tip: Innovative Seating 2012 <<
More information here!
With EVs and CO2 emission reduction to the forefront of everybody’s mind, weight reduction maintains its position as seat development’s most important driver – and inhibitor: customers’ demands for seating comfort, flexibility and safety must of course not be restricted. The challenge across all industries is to minimise seat weight but at the same time optimising seat ergonomics and still meeting legal requirements.
The latest technical innovations to help you reduce weight and increase seating comfort!
The Innovative Seating Conference, 06 – 09 February, 2012, will combine extensive experience from industry professionals and best practise updates – do not miss out!
- Meet future customers’ demands by adapting cross industry trends in seating design
- Find out about advances in material selection and design to minimise seat weight at affordable costs
- Evaluate the effects of new materials and lightweight design on seating comfort
- Assess the ergonomic aspects of the perfect seat for all passengers and functions
- Discover flexible and comfortable seating concepts for compact electric vehicles
Please visit the website for more information.
The survey consists of six questions, and only takes a few minutes. Share your opinion on current challenges, and on production outsourcing possibilities. Feel also free to share your key concerns.
IQPC is giving away three tickets for the Innovative Seating Conference. Win a ticket by completing the survey. Start the poll now.
Thanks for participating!
The iPhone 4S and Siri: What is likely to happen with automakers? Here’s an interesting article written by Bill Howard on October 4, 2011 about the likely outcome of the Apple iPhone 4S and Siri for car manufacturers.
“If you’re underwhelmed by an iPhone 4S that isn’t propped up by an unannounced big brother iPhone 5, automakers should feel differently: The Siri voice-activated assistant, which will arrive with the iPhone 4S on October 14, will put this $199 device head and shoulders above the $1,500-plus navigation systems in car dashes today. Only some in-car navigation has interactive voice response (IVR) and none have it with the sophistication of the iPhone. It raises the question again, “Why am I paying as much as two grand for navigation that’s harder to use than what’s in my iPhone or Droid”?
The iPhone 4S resembles the iPhone 4 but with a faster processor, better camera, more powerful antenna, and improved voice recognition, selling for $199 (16 GB) to $399 (64GB), on AT&T, Verizon, and now on Sprint. But a hoped-for iPhone 5 was not announced. The improved antenna should help users talk farther from cell sites and get better Pandora and Mog streaming music. That’s nice. It’s the voice recognition that should concern automakers.
With most cars, you tap in the destination on the LCD display or using a cockpit control wheel such as BMW iDrive or Audi MMI. Some cars have a limited form of voice input: “Say the State … say the City … say the Street … say the Number.” (That was so the overworked on-board processor could keep up.) A handful have one-shot destination entry where you can tap the navigation button and then the destination button, then say “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.” Success in parsing depends on how well the microphones captured, how well the nav system recognized your voice, and whether you used the right syntax. “Navigate to” might work while “directions to” or “take me to” might not.
Cars with integrated data cellphones (for mayday calling and now for other services) can do offboard voice processing. That’s what’s used by GM OnStar and others such as the promsing Blue Link service on cars such as the Hyundai Veloster. But it costs you $180 to $300 a year for the telematics service, on top of the cost of the navigation system. And none of it is as powerful as on the iPhone 4S and Siri, at least as shown in Apple’s demo. Lots of features, including interactive voice response, seem to work less amazingly out in the field.
Current navigation apps on both Droid phones and iPhones have some ability to handle spoken directions, meaning once you get to the navigation / destination part, you can speak the street name or POI (point of interest) name: “1600 Pennsylviania Avenue [or the White House], Washington, D.C.” It’s nice for getting to a restaurant without looking up the address.
With the conversational nature of Siri, a command such as “I want to get to Carnegie Hall,” should know you want to navigate to 881 Seventh Avenue in New York City. (On April Fool’s Day, an iPhone 4S with a sense of humor might respond with “Practice, Practice, Practice.” <rimshot>)
Here’s what likely to happen with automakers. It’s like a shortened version of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief before dying:
- First, denial. Something so small and cheap can’t be that good.
- Second, anger. Automakes will note how it’s hard to see a four-inch screen (still 3.5 inches with the iPhone, up to 4.3 inches with the largest Droids) and how often the suction cup cradle mount comes undone. Plus they don’t have to do all the safety testing the automakers say they do.
- Bargaining. They’ll try to get hold of the same Siri voice recognition, or work with Nuance, the industry’s main player, to do the same thing.
- Depression. Automakers will despair of ever getting their prices down, partly because they do so much safety and compatibility testing, and in part because they insist on using proprietary components that can’t be used industry-wide.
- Acceptance. Some will figure out a way to make existing navigation systems work nearly as well.
The likely outcome: Automakers will feel more pressure to bring the price of in-car navigation down below $1,000. Some will do it. BMW, which had been charging as much as $2,100 for navigation, now offers it on some 2012 models for $1250. Many will embed telematics cellphones in cars to do offboard IVR and to get access to the most up-to-date maps. So the shift from embedded telematics (GM OnStar, BMW Assist) to telematics via your cellphone (Ford Sync) may shift back to embedded telematics on all but the cheapest cars.
Some automakers may decide the best solution is to sync the smartphone’s display to an integrated 7- or 8-inch LCD and give up entirely on trying to do their own navigation. Despondant as automakers should feel about the iPhone’s navigation capabilities, the real nail in the coffin may be struck at the makers of of portable navigation devices. It’s a tough time to be Garmin or TomTom.” (Source: http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/98501-apple-iphone-4s-and-siri-another-nail-in-the-coffin-for-in-dash-car-navigation)
Really? Am I completely off my rocker?
How many people go out and talk to their car? If people don’t talk to them, then many others do give them names. If not that, at least out in the open, cars often are personified as “she” or “he”. Now, what if you came out into the garage or carport and talked to your car and it answered back, but, even more, asked if you wanted a ride or where you wanted to go? You say “sure”, get in, and ultimately arrive at your destination. Along the way, you strike up a conversation with the vehicle and get everything from the news to advice, just like talking with a cab driver. Is this so far-fetched? We read of robots being developed with humanoid qualities, and there is nothing to say that cars can’t be in the same category. Before we contemplate the reality of this and other discussions that might wander into topics of animistic philosophies, we need to backtrack a bit and look at how we may be getting there. It all starts with the human-machine interface, or HMI.
Some basics of HMI
Simply put, there is a way for a human to interact with a machine, and the interface is the device by which to do this. To be extremely basic, we talk of the several simple machines – “mechanical device that changes the direction or magnitude of a force .“ Most people commonly refer to the six simple machines as being the wheel and axle, inclined plane, lever, wedge, pulley, and screw. There is debate about some of these being offshoots of others, such as the wedge being two inclined planes placed back-to-back and the pulley as a variant of the wheel. Nevertheless people need to use these, and an example of an interface for wedge used as a wood splitter, for example might be a big “X” and instructions to strike with a hammer printed on the back face, or side.
In the 1950s, when computers started coming out, people began writing about how humans were to interact, or interface with them. The term “man-machine” interface (MMI), in those times less enlightened about 51% of the worlds’ population being women, referred to a physical device that allowed humans to make the computer work. We sometime hear of a “human–computer interface” (HCI), but the letter “C” restricts usage more to actual computers than allowing us to use it generally to all machines.
The key to designing an interface is to present the user with an obvious way to interact with the machine. In an automobile, we can regard the steering wheel, gauges pedals, and ignition key as interfaces that allow us to drive. With the computers of the 1950s, all the user had as an interface often was a set of levers or switches, such as with the Digital Equipment Corporation’s PDP 8. Today, the environment is a windows-based graphical user interface that enables us to use the operating system to run the computer. Now, we are combining the two types in a digital form to drive a vehicle – computers and gauges. In addition to actually driving it, there are auxiliary activities, such as getting information – news, directions, weather, etc., as well as outright entertainment. Enhanced functions come with a higher priced car, where a driver can navigate by the global positioning system (GPS), find a desired restaurant, or be warned of heavy traffic ahead and routed through less crowded conditions. Fancier cars have fancier systems, as in intelligent tires (tire condition warning and maintenance), automatic steering, and brake management. Vehicles can be equipped such that a driver can use mobile devices, such as an iPad or Blackberry to interact with the vehicle’s central control system to navigate or monitor various mechanical or environmental conditions.
INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE ABOUT THIS TOPIC?
2nd International Conference Automotive Cockpit HMI
Michael Fischer, Group Leader Powertrain Research in the Advanced Technology Research at Honda R&D Europe, talked exclusively to IQPC about the challenges facing the automotive industry, as well worldwide standards for NOx aftertreatment of diesel passenger cars.
You can listen and download the interview as a podcast here.
Today, we would like to introduce Peter Vink, an expert of seating comfort and design.
Peter Vink has been active in the field of seating comfort and design for over twenty years. Since 1998 he’s been the head of the department of Ergonomics and Innovation at TNO and since 2005 he leads the department of Interior Design, where projects for many international companies and organisations are done focused on better comfort and better performance. In 2002 he became a professor at the Delft University of Technology at the department of Industrial Design where he guides PhD and MSc students in designing products that contribute to better health, more productivity and better comfort. Peter’s area of research is Physical and Organizational Ergonomics include:
– Designing production lines that increase productivity and health for employees,
– Designing products like hand tools, seats, and vehicle interiors with special attention to comfort,
– Designing systems that increase the working conditions.
Furthermore, Peter Vink is Head of the department ‘Ergonomics and Innovation’ at TNO, Hoofddorp (4 days a week) as well as a Member of the editorial board of Applied Ergonomics.
Peter Vink will be the leader of IQPC’s Seminar on Seating Comfort which will take place in Hamburg and Cologne. He will give a comprehensive introductional training to seating comfort, user demands and ergonomics. You can find more information about the seminar here. Relevant presentations on seating design are available in the seminar’s Download Center.