Isn’t it odd how the driver’s seat in every car is not designed specifically for a driver? How all drivers’ seats are exactly the same as the (often very well designed) front passenger’s seat, yet the driver drives whilst the passenger doesn’t…
We do tend to take things for granted in our developed world, and in our developed car design world. We generally don’t question what has gone before when it has gone before for so long and been built upon as if it were unquestionably right.
Drivers’ seats have gently evolved over time. They have adopted more ways they can adjust in shape and configuration so that they can more comfortably and securely fit a spectrum of different body shapes with a range of different seating needs and wants. Some seat designs have gone beyond form innovation to offer powered adjustment, heating, cooling; even massage and beyond. All modern car seats are also designed better than ever to be easy to manufacture, to perform well in crashes and to conform to many other legislative and manufacturing parameters. But this progression is built on the unquestioned assumption that the driver’s seat should be the same as the front passenger’s seat; all developments are for front seats as identical twins.
Driver seat occupancy accounts for 100% of car journeys, more than four times the average occupancy of the front passenger seat. The driver is also distinct to the front seat passenger in how they sit: they extend their right foot and leg forwards, taking a near constant slight load on their heel and ball of their foot (with the exception of when driving with cruise control). Because of this load taken through their right leg, the driver bares more weight onto the left side of their seat, a fact well known by the chiropractors of the world.
And yet, despite the high level of design sophistication of today’s car seats, even within the rarified luxury or driver-centric sports car sectors, there is no instance of a driver’s seat that has been designed to specifically take into account their unique, asymmetrical, physical requirements. No new car today offers a driver a seat that has been design for their distinct needs over and above those of the front passenger.
Why should this be? We postulate that, in such a mature product as the car, the focus of new product development has to be at the creative leading edge and assume that it steps off a robust basis of well established good practice. But maybe there ought to be more energy devoted to ‘cleansheeting’ and to question what has gone before. Maybe the driver’s seat should be reconsidered? Maybe other aspects of car design should be too?