Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Ford helping heftier people fasten their (longer) seat belts

Designing for the 95th plus percentile ...

"Do you have to fasten not only the driver's but also the passenger's safety belt around you when you slip behind the wheel?

With nearly one of every three Americans rated "obese" by the American Medical Association, you just might.

And car companies are addressing the problem. Hard to believe, but the last time attention was paid to how the size of people affects the size of the passenger cabin was when John, Paul, Ringo and George were an opening act in the '60s.

"Because of increased obesity, more of today's motorists are grappling with tighter fits around steering wheels, armrests and seats," said Gary Rupp, a Ford ergonomics research engineer. Suit coats can be let out with needle and thread; doors can't.

AMA statistics showed that in 1962 the 95th percentile woman weighed 199 pounds and had an average hip width of 17.1 inches; her male counterpart weighed 217 pounds and had an average hip width of 15.9 inches.

The 95th percentile means that 95 percent of all people are that size and weight or smaller. The auto industry has long used the 95th percentile as a benchmark.

Not satisfied with 40-year-old numbers, Ford went out in 2000 with a tape measure and scale and sized up 5,000 people. It found that women and men have put on about 27 pounds since the '60s. Women's hips grew 2.6 inches, men's 1.3 inches.

Some folks may have buns of steel, but about 30 percent have buns--and bellies--in plus sizes.

Ford has come up with a set of virtual reality mannequins to help its designers create cabins to fit occupants whether petite or XXL."   continued ...   (Via Chicago Tribune)

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