Designing movement into automotive seating - does it improve comfort?

Comfort is important for a good driving experience and automotive seat technology is an important enabler of this. Movement through frequent changes in posture is beneficial for reducing fixed postures. This paper reports on a laboratory study to investigate a novel automotive seat movement concept aiming to delay the onset of driving-related musculoskeletal fatigue and improve feelings of comfort and wellbeing, making the driver feel refreshed and ultimately improving driver performance. The research involved comparison of three seat conditions while driving - no seat movement, fore-aft movement, cushion and backrest angle movement. The movement was designed to be at a fixed speed, slow, smooth and only slightly perceptible while driving. A sample of 10 participants was recruited to take part in a 60 minute drive for each condition - single blind, repeated measures, balanced order and sessions at a similar time of day. Discomfort and wellbeing questionnaires, driver Seat Fidgets and Movements (SFMs), posture capture and a de-brief were used as data collection methods. Results indicate that the two seat movement concepts were positively received. Statistically significant differences were found at minute 60 for buttock area discomfort, with less reported discomfort for the two movement conditions. As expected, overall discomfort ratings and SFMs frequency increased with time spent driving for all trials. Posture scores verified that driver posture was within comfortable ranges and as expected fairly static while driving.