Developing the science of comfort
Faurecia’s R&D teams have spent 20 years continually innovating and improving automotive seating. In 2009 we took a radical shift to look beyond the product itself and explore the various physiological and psychological factors that influence a person’s feeling of comfort in a vehicle. Our aim: to find a scientific way to evaluate comfort that would help OEMs develop the optimal seat and enhance personal well-being for the different ways we’ll use cars into the future, especially with the autonomous driving perspectives.
We started to focus on the way human sits and linked to the key mechanical properties of seating – frame, tilt, density, firmness etc. Testers drove thousands of kilometers at different speeds on straight and winding roads to help us evaluate fundamental factors, such as static support or how the body behaves while going round corners. It encouraged us to go further, taking into account a wider range of criteria, from visual, postural to acoustic comfort and finding ways to measure them. For example how first impressions - initial look, smell and touch of a seat - influence perceptions of comfort. We also developed more in-depth evaluation of other physical experiences of the seat. This included for example a pressure mapping to better understand the distribution of the body’s weight on the seat, measuring the ergonomy of getting in and out and adjusting the seat as well as exploring the effects of ventilation and heating in a climate chamber as measures of thermal comfort.
Through our research we’ve defined a list of more than 50 criteria, structured into 10 seating comfort categories, that provides the first industry index for measuring and predicting automotive seat comfort. We use this in a four-step design process with our OEM customers so they can define a comfort level for any new vehicle seat, evaluate and optimize their designs to achieve this faster and more cost-effectively before the prototyping stage. We also draw on our innovation expertise in the Cockpit of the Future to advise manufacturers on how best to design for future autonomous cars where the configuration of the cabin, and the experience in the seat, needs to provide different levels of comfort depending on whether someone is driving, working or relaxing. The perimeter of our expertise goes beyond the seat but we need to embrace the whole cockpit to offer a unique and complete experience.
Our work involves a diverse team of people – from biomechanical engineers, ergonomists, to acoustics, thermal and even neuroscience experts, as well as an international group of internal testers who embrace the chance to contribute to Faurecia’s advanced innovation. Together we’re finding ways to ensure that each of us experience a safe and healthy as well as relaxed journey in an individualized and intuitive car cabin.