Have a seat!

Science Bolsters 2014 Chevrolet Impala’s Seat Comfort

Crafting comfortable car seats takes more than high-tech tools like seat pressure mapping systems and a multi-part mannequin that feeds data into a comfort dimensioning system.

As helpful as they are, there is no substitute for an element of human fine-tuning, or putting butts in seats.

General Motors’ human factors engineers, who understand biomechanics, psychology, quantitative research and ergonomics, applied all these disciplines to help make the seats comfortable in the 2014 Chevrolet Impala.

Customers for each car segment want more or less support and rigidity in their car seats. What the car will be used for – such as commuting, city driving or track racing – helps engineers establish precise parameters of comfort. Finding the “sweet spot” for each vehicle doesn’t come easy.

For the new Impala, volunteer seat testers ranging from 5th percentile females (5 feet tall, 110 lbs.) to 95th percentile males (6 feet tall or taller, 223 lbs.) spent hundreds of hours and logged thousands of miles in prototypes of the redesigned flagship sedan to evaluate seat comfort.

Seat testers typically drive or ride in prototype vehicles for several 60-minute intervals at a time recording initial feedback after the first 10 minutes. At each 60-minute interval, they numerically rate every aspect of the seat: cushion, backrest, lumbar support, headrest and side bolsters.

But tester feedback is subjective and design changes are often subtle because seat designs evolve from past programs and reams of data collected with precision instruments.

“Developing comfortable seats is both an art and a science,” said Jill Green, GM seat comfort lab manager. “Knowing how to translate a physiological impression into tangible design elements is the art, and knowing how to execute the design is the science.”