How to quantify long term driver discomfort


When you select a new car, it’s easy to see its appearance in the showroom. But it is hard to know how comfortable to drive the car, even though you can sit inside for 15 minutes.

Research has shown that such showroom demonstrations cannot fully assess a seat’s comfort. Instead of 15 minutes, you need at least 2 hours to accurately determine the performance of a seat.

Besides driving time, other factors like vibration magnitude also can influence driver comfort.

Previous studies have used questionnaires to measure driver comfort, but it is criticized for being too subjective. Thus, a combination of self report and objective measure is important.

A new study published in Applied Ergonomics achieves this goal.

Researchers recruited 10 experienced drivers and asked them to drive 140 minutes on a driving simulator. The drivers were required to report discomfort ratings every 10 minutes. Meanwhile, their seat fidgets and movements during driving were recorded.

The result showed that as the driving time increased, participants’ overall discomfort rating was higher and they had more in-chair movements. This was observed in all the 10 drivers.

Furthermore, there is a positive relation between the in-chair movements and the discomfort rating: when drivers felt no discomfort at all, they made no fidgets and movements; when they felt high discomfort, they made frequent fidgets and movements.

This study provides a method that can replace subjective assessments of driver comfort.

In the future, researchers will confirm the result in different laboratory conditions and the relation between the in-chair movement magnitude and the discomfort rating.

Citation: Sammonds GM, Fray M, Mansfield NJ. (2017). Effect of long term driving on driver discomfort and its relationship with seat fidgets and movements (SFMs). Applied Ergonomics, 58:119-127. doi:10.1016/j.apergo.2016.05.009
Figure legend: This image is for illustrative purposes only.