Anthropometry is a key aspect in any design. It seems, however, that this is just the aspect that has been left out of so much of our day to day equipment. How many times have you been using a tool, piece of equipment or even tried on clothes and thought, “I don’t know who designed this, but they weren’t shaped like me.”
This is not the case in Volvo’s new Safety Concept Car (SCC) that made its appearance at auto shows and even before law makers in Washington DC this year. This car is all about making the best match between the human and the environment.
Let’s get back to anthropometry for a moment. Anthropometry is the study of human sizes. How tall are you, how far can you reach, how much leg clearance do you require? These can all be answered with anthropometry. In every design there is at least one ‘key’ anthropometric dimension. Depending on the situation, the key dimension may be identified as minimum head clearance, or maximum arm reach.
Volvo has decided that for the most optimal viewing of the road, eye height is the most important feature. While this may seem very obvious, how many of us wish that the car seat had more adjustability to better our viewing angle?
Volvo’s SCC looks for the driver’s eyes. Once it finds them, it brings them to the optimal position to view the road. That’s right, once the car knows where your eyes are, it automatically adjusts the seat, pedals and controls so that you eyes can be where they should be-on the road ahead.
This brings us to another key ergonomics consideration. Bring the equipment to the worker rather than making the worker go to the equipment. Volvo will bring the pedals and controls to the driver rather than making the driver move forward to the controls. In Volvo’s design this is also a safety feature as it keeps the driver from being too close to the steering column and airbag.
And it doesn’t stop there. Ergonomics principles tell us that people and machines are different and that designs should reflect each optimally. This means that while a human is better at emergency decision making, a machine is better suited to accurately tell us the speed limit. The Volvo SCC implements audio and visual warning systems that may help give the driver time to make appropriate decisions. SCC headlights also automatically adjust to lighting conditions and speed.
Forget trying to parallel park by craning your neck around, or straining to see past luggage in the back. The SCC’s rear mounted camera’s will project the image to you eliminating the need for those awkward neck postures.
Volvo didn’t exclude the passengers either. The SCC back seats are height adjustable to accommodate children too big for a car seat, but too small to safely sit in adult size seat.
Other safety features include clear plexiglass along the windshield pillars to increase visibility, and a satellite tracking system that will tell emergency crews your location in the event of an accident, and also relay specific medical information such as allergies or a heart condition, which will better prepare rescuers when they arrive.
Four point seat belts for everyone and heart rate monitors in the car top off advanced safety features on the SCC.
All this is great, but will it ever come to be? Well, pieces of this safety system including rear adjustable seats for children are already available in the 2001 Volvo V70 XC. Who knows what will be market available in a few years.